Prenatal depression, fetal neurobehavior, and infant temperament: Novel insights on early neurodevelopment from a socioeconomically disadvantaged Indian cohort.
This article extends the research focusing on the early origins of psychopathology into the prenatal period, by exploring the association between maternal prenatal depression and offspring (fetal and infant) neurobehavior. The sample is recruited from a rural population in South India where women in the third trimester of pregnancy were assessed for depression and the heart rate responses of their fetuses to extrinsically applied vibroacoustic stimuli were studied. At 2 months postbirth, infant temperament and cortisol responsivity to immunization were assessed. The association between maternal prenatal depression and fetal responsivity to vibroacoustic stimulation, and infant responsivity to immunization, was U shaped with higher levels of responsivity noted in the offspring of mothers with very high and very low depression scores, and lower levels noted in the offspring of mothers with moderate depression scores. Maternal prenatal depression was not associated with infant temperament. The findings highlight the importance of environmental influences in the developmental origins of neurobehavior, suggesting that such differences, not evident at baseline, may emerge upon exposure to stressors. The study also emphasizes the need for further investigation in low- and middle-income contexts by providing preliminary evidence of the differing patterns of association observed between high- and low-income populations.
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