Early Maternal Support Ups Hippocampal Volume in Children

Positive effects on hippocampal volume found to be highest in non-depressed children

TUESDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal support during the preschool years has a positive effect on healthy hippocampal development, which is key to memory and stress modulation, according to an article published online Jan. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Joan L. Luby, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues conducted a longitudinal study of healthy and depressed preschool-aged children who later underwent neuroimaging to determine whether early maternal support predicted later hippocampal volumes.

The researchers found that maternal support during the preschool years strongly predicted school-age hippocampal volume, as determined using neuroimaging studies. The association was stronger for those children who were not depressed compared with those who were deemed depressed.

"Notably, the relationships between maternal support and hippocampal volumes remained highly significant when comorbid internalizing and externalizing symptoms were controlled in the analysis. The importance of this effect is underscored by the fact that the hippocampus is a brain region central to memory, emotion regulation, and stress modulation, all areas key to healthy social adaptation," the authors write.

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