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Mom's immune system shapes baby's brain

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: This is neonatal salience network connectivity. A) Regions of interest used for seed connectivity. The right and left insula and dACC seeds are shown in green. B) Left and C)... view more 

Credit: Spann et al., JNeurosci (2018)

The state of a woman's immune system during pregnancy may shape the connectivity of her child's brain, suggests a study of teenage mothers published in JNeurosci. The research emphasizes the influence of maternal health on a child's susceptibility to psychiatric disorders later in life.

Marisa Spann, Bradley Peterson and colleagues studied adolescents (ages 14 to 19) pregnant with their first child to examine the relationship between two proteins released by the mothers' immune systems during the third trimester of pregnancy and the development in the infants of a brain network involved in disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The researchers found that higher maternal levels of these proteins were associated with greater connectivity of the infants' brain regions in this network and with higher cognitive ability at 14 months of age. Activation of the maternal immune system was also associated with lower fetal heart rate at the end of gestation, which may indicate delayed development of the autonomic nervous system. These results suggest that the final weeks of pregnancy have an important influence on a child's brain development.

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Article: Maternal immune activation during the third trimester is associated with neonatal functional connectivity of the salience network and fetal to toddler behavior
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JEUROSCI.2272-17.2018
Corresponding author: Bradley Peterson (Children's Hospital Los Angeles, CA, USA), bpeterson@chla.usc.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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