Prenatal depression and infant development

There is strong evidence that a mother’s depression during pregnancy tends to be associated with later psychological difficulties for her child, including the child’s own depression. Are these later difficulties linked to infant development in utero and so directly related to the prenatal depression? Or are the child’s difficulties more associated with its experiences after birth, perhaps to a continuation of the mother’s depression, postpartum? Recent research suggests some answers to these questions. Read more Prenatal depression and infant development

An overabundance of synapses and autism

Some of the symptoms of autism may be due to the brain failing to prune synapses during the early, crucial years of a child’s life. The resulting overabundance of synapses could contribute to some of the symptoms of autism and an understanding of the mechanisms behind this failure to prune may lead to future treatments for the condition.

A study by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, reported in Neuron, found higher densities of dendritic spines in the brains of children and adolescents diagnosed with autism, compared to those without that diagnosis. Dendritic spines are those parts of the neuron where synapses are found, the connections that carry signals between neurons. According to one estimate, each neuron contains on average around 7,000 synapses. Read more An overabundance of synapses and autism