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'Emotional' Brain Circuit Passed Down From Mothers To Daughters

Update Date: Jan 28, 2016 01:47 PM EST

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, find that the human brain's corticolimbic system, which oversees emotional regulation and processing as well as mood disorders such as depression, is inherited by daughters from their mothers.

Even as the connection between depression in mothers and daughters as well as animal studies showing enhanced female sensitivity to whatever changes there are in emotion-related brain structures, responding to maternal prenatal stress, this study is the first to attempt to link such areas of research.

Still, the research does not indicate that mothers are responsible for their daughters' bouts of depression.

"Many factors play a role in depression - genes that are not inherited from the mother, social environment, and life experiences, to name only three. Mother-daughter transmission is just one piece of it," Fumiko Hoeft, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "But this is the first study to bridge animal and human clinical research and show a possible matrilineal transmission of human corticolimbic circuitry, which has been implicated in depression, by scanning both parents and offspring."

"It opens the door to a whole new avenue of research looking at intergenerational transmission patterns in the human brain," she added.

Hoeft and her team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to collect and assess the grey matter volume (GMV) in the corticolimbic systems of parents as well as their offspring. They looked at 35 healthy families who did not suffer from depression. They found a much deeper link between the corticolimbic GMV of mothers and daughter, as compared to other options, such as "mothers and sons, fathers and sons and fathers and daughters".

"This gives us a potential new tool to better understand depression and other neuropsychiatric conditions, as most conditions seem to show intergenerational transmission patterns," Hoeft said. "Anxiety, autism, addiction, schizophrenia, dyslexia, you name it - brain patterns inherited from both mothers and fathers have an impact on just about all of them."

However, the study did not look into the effects of genetics, along with prenatal and postnatal conditions, which the team is hoping to study in other studies.

The study will be published in the Jan. 27,2016 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

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