Frank Beach Award Winner - The future of mental health research: Examining the interactions of the immune, endocrine and nervous systems between mother and infant and how they affect mental health

Horm Behav. 2019 Aug;114:104521. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.04.008. Epub 2019 Apr 18.


Pregnancy and the postpartum period are periods of significant change in the immune and endocrine systems. This period of life is also associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders in the mother, and an increased risk of developmental and neuropsychiatric disorders in her infant. The collective data described here supports the idea that peripartum mood disorders in mother and developmental disorders in her infant likely reflects multiple pathogeneses, stemming from various interactions between the immune, endocrine and nervous systems, thereby resulting in various symptom constellations. In this case, testing the mechanisms underlying specific symptoms of these disorders (e.g. deficits in specific types of learning or anhedonia) may provide a better understanding of the various physiological interactions and multiple etiologies that most likely underlie the risk of mental health disorders during this unique time in life. The goal here is to summarize the current understanding of how immune and endocrine factors contribute to maternal mental health, while simultaneously understanding the impact these unique interactions have on the developing brain of her infant.

Keywords: Brain development; Cytokines; Developmental disorders; Hormones; Peripartum mood disorders; Women's health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Awards and Prizes
  • Biomedical Research / trends*
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Endocrine System / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Infant
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Health / trends*
  • Mood Disorders / complications
  • Mood Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Neuropsychiatry / trends*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Postpartum Period / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Puerperal Disorders / physiopathology
  • Puerperal Disorders / psychology
  • Women's Health