Depression may pass from mothers to daughters

This study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience and led by Dr. Fumiko Hoeft by the University of California-San Francisco.

Depression, a disease we all know. Worldwide, millions of people are affected by depression. Fortunately, we have effective medication and a lot of risk factors are known. However, the precise pathophysiology remains unclear. In one of the latest studies depression appears to be passed down from mother to daughter. This information is not only relevant for psychiatrists and psychologists, but also for general practitioners and students.

shutterstock_50912479Previous studies already reported that depression is commonly found in both mothers and daughters. Animal studies have shown that when mothers are stressed during pregnancy, this is more likely to be reflected in the brain structure of daughters than of sons, specifically in the corticolimbic system. The corticolimbic system is used to assess danger, and it is where emotions are processed and regulated. Mood disorders such as depression are reflected in changes to this system.

In this new study the gray matter volume in the corticolimbic systems of parents and children was measured using MRI. The results showed far more similarity between mothers and daughters corticolimbic gray matter volume than was seen between mothers and sons, fathers and sons or fathers and daughters. Thus, when a mother has had a depression, her daughter has a higher risk of getting a depression herself. However, mothers are not responsible for a depression in their daughters. Many factors play a role in depression, like the social environment, life experiences, lifestyle and other genetic predispositions. But more and more is known about depression, so hopefully one day the whole puzzle will be solved.

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