Maternal pregnancy-specific anxiety is associated with child executive function at 6-9 years age

Department of Pediatrics, University of California Irvine, Orange 92868, USA.
Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands) (Impact Factor: 2.72). 11/2011; 14(6):665-76. DOI: 10.3109/10253890.2011.623250
Source: PubMed


Because fetal brain development proceeds at an extremely rapid pace, early life experiences have the potential to alter the trajectory of neurodevelopment, which may increase susceptibility for developmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. There is evidence that prenatal maternal stress and anxiety, especially worries specifically related to being pregnant, influence neurodevelopmental outcomes. In the current prospective longitudinal study, we included 89 women for whom serial data were available for pregnancy-specific anxiety, state anxiety, and depression at 15, 19, 25, 31, and 37 weeks gestation. When the offspring from the target pregnancy were between 6 and 9 years of age, their executive function was assessed. High levels of mean maternal pregnancy-specific anxiety over the course of gestation were associated with lower inhibitory control in girls only and lower visuospatial working memory performance in boys and girls. Higher-state anxiety and depression also were associated with lower visuospatial working memory performance. However, neither state anxiety nor depression explained any additional variance after accounting for pregnancy-specific anxiety. The findings contribute to the literature supporting an association between pregnancy-specific anxiety and cognitive development and extend our knowledge about the persistence of this effect until middle childhood.

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Available from: Elysia Poggi Davis, Oct 05, 2015
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    • "This finding is consistent with earlier reports of poorer reaction time of 15-year-old boys of highly anxious (>75th percentile) women, along with decreased performance on two IQ subtests (Van den Bergh et al., 2005, 2006). In contrast, analysis of school-age children revealed that higher maternal pregnancy-specific anxiety interfered with inhibitory control in girls but not boys (Buss et al., 2011). Maternal depressive symptoms are often measured within the constellation of maternal stress and anxiety. "
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    ABSTRACT: Despite long-standing interest in the role of sex on human development, the functional consequences of fetal sex on early development are not well understood. Here we explore the gestational origins of sex as a moderator of development. In accordance with the focus of this special issue, we examine evidence for a sex differential in vulnerability to prenatal and perinatal risks. Exposures evaluated include those present in the external environment (e.g., lead, pesticides), those introduced by maternal behaviors (e.g., alcohol, opioid use), and those resulting from an adverse intrauterine environment (e.g., preterm birth). We also provide current knowledge on the degree to which sex differences in fetal neurobehavioral development (i.e., cardiac and motor patterns) are present prior to birth. Also considered are contemporaneous and persistent sex of fetus effects on the pregnant woman. Converging evidence confirms that infant and early childhood developmental outcomes of male fetuses exposed to prenatal and perinatal adversities are more highly impaired than those of female fetuses. In certain circumstances, male fetuses are both more frequently exposed to early adversities and more affected by them when exposed than are female fetuses. The mechanisms through which biological sex imparts vulnerability or protection on the developing nervous system are largely unknown. We consider models that implicate variation in maturation, placental functioning, and the neuroendocrine milieu as potential contributors. Many studies use sex as a control variable, some analyze and report main effects for sex, but those that report interaction terms for sex are scare. As a result, the true scope of sex differences in vulnerability is unknown. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Neuroscience 07/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.07.068 · 3.36 Impact Factor
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    • "to each mother, in order to obtain information about three temperamental dimensions (i.e., surgency , negative affect, effortful control). Additionally, we used the Anxiety and Depression Hamilton scale [85] to assess these two aspects of the mother's mental health involved in selfregulation from the early stages of child development [86]. This information was used to evaluate potential differences between control and intervention groups at the beginning of the study. "
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    ABSTRACT: The current study presents a 32-week intervention for kindergarten children from low socio-economic backgrounds. The main contribution of this study resides in the interdisciplinary development of the intervention, made in close collaboration between educational researchers, and researchers in cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology. The intervention was implemented by teachers through class activities, to promote executive functions and academic achievement. These activities were articulated into the current kindergarten curriculum and, at the same time, built upon concepts and methodologies of developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience for executive functions training. Results showed: (1) non-significant differences between groups in cognitive performance from pre- to post-training assessment, and (2) significant differences in academic achievement for Language, Mathematics, Autonomy, and Contact with peers in first grade. Our study sets a precedent for future interdisciplinary work bridging the gap between developmental psychology and education, which we believe will prove key to improving academic success.
    Trends in Neuroscience and Education 03/2015; 4(1-2). DOI:10.1016/j.tine.2015.03.003
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    • "In contrast, males appear more vulnerable to developing schizophrenic symptoms in response to perinatal stress (Van Os and Selten, 1998). Associated with prenatal stress, there is evidence that boys suffer from behavioral problems earlier in development (at one year of age; Gerardin et al., 2011), while girls display stronger effects during later life periods (Buss et al., 2011, 2012). Such sex-specific stress-induced behavioral differences are accompanied by differences in specific brain structures such as the amygdala, where girls show an increased volume compared to boys (Buss et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Environmental influences such as perinatal stress have been shown to program the developing organism to adapt brain and behavioral functions to cope with daily life challenges. Evidence is now accumulating that the specific and individual effects of early life adversity on the functional development of brain and behavior emerge as a function of the type, intensity, timing and the duration of the adverse environment, and that early life stress (ELS) is a major risk factor for developing behavioral dysfunctions and mental disorders. Results from clinical as well as experimental studies in animal models support the hypothesis that ELS can induce functional "scars" in prefrontal and limbic brain areas, regions that are essential for emotional control, learning and memory functions. On the other hand, the concept of "stress inoculation" is emerging from more recent research, which revealed positive functional adaptations in response to ELS resulting in resilience against stress and other adversities later in life. Moreover, recent studies indicate that early life experiences and the resulting behavioral consequences can be transmitted to the next generation, leading to a transgenerational cycle of adverse or positive adaptations of brain function and behavior. In this review we propose a unifying view of stress vulnerability and resilience by connecting genetic predisposition and programming sensitivity to the context of experience-expectancy and transgenerational epigenetic traits. The adaptive maturation of stress responsive neural and endocrine systems requires environmental challenges to optimize their functions. Repeated environmental challenges can be viewed within the framework of the match/mismatch hypothesis, the outcome, psychopathology or resilience, depends on the respective predisposition and on the context later in life.
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