Neural Clues Identified for Postpartum Depression

Diminished dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activity, amygdala connectivity may play role in condition
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified neural mechanisms -- diminished dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activity and amygdala connectivity -- that may play a role in postpartum depression and impaired maternal attachment processes; their findings have been published online Sept. 15 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Eydie L. Moses-Kolko, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed 16 healthy mothers and 14 depressed, unmedicated mothers by magnetic resonance imaging during a face versus shape matching task to gauge dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and amygdala activity in response to negative emotional faces.

The researchers found that the depressed mothers had significantly reduced left dorsomedial prefrontal cortical face-related activity compared to the healthy mothers. Depressed mothers also showed a significant negative correlation between postpartum depression and left amygdala activity, as well as a significant positive association between lack of infant-related hostility and right amygdala activity.

"Significantly diminished dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activity and dorsomedial prefrontal cortical-amygdala effective connectivity in response to negative emotional faces may represent an important neural mechanism, or effect, of postpartum depression. Reduced amygdala activity in response to negative emotional faces is associated with greater postpartum depression severity and more impaired maternal attachment processes in postpartum depressed mothers," the authors write.

One author disclosed a financial relationship with Nova-Gyne.

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