Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging Findings in Children after Antenatal Maternal Depression Treatment, a Longitudinal Study Built on a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Laura S Bleker, Jeannette Milgrom, Donna Parker, Alan W Gemmill, Christopher J Holt, Alan Connelly, Huibert Burger, Tessa J Roseboom, Susanne R de Rooij

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Antenatal depression is associated with an increased risk of offspring neuro-developmental disorders, potentially as a consequence of an altered brain development in utero. We hypothesized that reducing maternal depression by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) during pregnancy may ameliorate the offspring's brain (micro)structural outcomes. 54 pregnant women with a diagnosed clinical depression were randomly allocated to CBT or Treatment as Usual (TAU), showing moderate to large depression symptom improvements after CBT. In 16 of their children (69% boys, N(TAU) = 8, N(CBT) = 8, mean age = 5.9 years, range = 3.9-7.1 years) brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans were conducted. Children from the CBT group had a thicker right lateral occipital cortex (difference: 0.13 mm, 95% CI = 0.005-0.26) and lingual gyrus (difference: 0.18 mm, 95% CI = 0.01-0.34). In the CBT group, Voxel-Based Morphometry analysis identified one cluster showing increased gray matter concentration in the right medial temporal lobe at p < 0.05 uncorrected, and fixel-based analysis revealed reduced fiber-bundle cross-section in the Fornix, the Optical Tract, and the Stria Terminalis at p < 0.01 uncorrected. However, none of the results survived correction for multiple testing. Our explorative analyses provided some indication that antenatal CBT for depression may ameliorate offspring's brain (micro)structural outcomes, but the sample size was extremely small, and our results should be cautiously interpreted. Larger studies are warranted to confirm our preliminary conclusions that CBT for antenatal depression affects brain development in children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1816
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2-May-2019

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