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Depression And Anxiety In Newborns – Predictor Of Mental Illness In The Future?

Update Date: Feb 06, 2017 07:50 AM EST

Signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety can be seen even in newborns. The early differences in the brain connectivity can predict mental illness, according to a new study.

A report published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, details that newborns can already show signs and symptoms of sadness, excessive shyness, nervousness and separation anxiety. These are linked to clinical depression and anxiety in older children and adults.

Dr. Cynthia Rogers, a child psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis, said that brain connectivity patterns may indicate that some children are at risk for mental health symptoms as they develop. However, the experiences and the environment as they grow can alter these symptoms as well.

The research titled "Neonatal Amygdala Functional Connectivity at Rest in Healthy and Preterm Infants and Early Internalizing Symptoms" initially aimed to look into the functional connectivity differences of premature and those full term babies. In the past, studies suggest that pre-term are at greater risk of having mental health issues later in life.

However, when the researchers looked into the MRI scans of 65 full term babies and 57 pre-term babies after two years, they found out that there are no major differences in terms of symptoms of depression and anxiety. What they found out is that the part of the brain that is involved in consciousness and emotion and one that is responsible for planning and decision making were associated with higher risk of depression and anxiety at two years old.

Rogers explained the importance of the study as newborns are not yet influenced by experiences. The team is planning to evaluate the children again when they are nine and 10 years old.

It is not clear what causes depression and anxiety in newborns. Rogers and her team want to understand the patterns of the brain that leads to early social and emotional impairments.

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