Examining the relationship between perinatal depression and neurodevelopment in infants and children through structural and functional neuroimaging research

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2019 May;31(3):264-279. doi: 10.1080/09540261.2018.1527759. Epub 2019 Jan 31.


Depression is the most common perinatal psychiatric disorder, but little is known about how it may impact offspring neurodevelopment, as well as the mechanisms by which it may confer transgenerational psychiatric risk. This review presents imaging studies conducted to evaluate the relationship between perinatal depression (PND) and infant and child neurodevelopment. Altered structural and functional connectivity is implicated in children exposed to PND and anxiety. Overall, there are changes in connectivity between amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Studies suggest decreased hippocampal growth in the first 6 months after birth, decreased cortical thickness in children, and increased amygdala volumes, that are more pronounced in female offspring. Future research is needed to understand the impact of PND on development so that early interventions which promote mother-infant bonding and cognitive development may improve developmental outcomes in children exposed to PND, reducing later risk of psychopathology.

Keywords: Perinatal; anxiety; child; depression; infant; magnetic resonance imaging; neuroimaging; postnatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Perinatal Care*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy