Mothers with depression

Mothers who suffer from postpartum depression react differently to the crying of their babies than mothers without depression. Such conclusions were made by researchers at the University of Oregon based on fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) data of the brain.

It turned out that in response to the crying of their child, in depressed women, changes in the brain are less pronounced than in those who do not have depressed mood. Such conclusions were made on the basis of fMRI , which shows changes in the blood flow of the corresponding parts of the brain and visualizes these data on the monitor screen.

Study Characteristics

Brain responses to the crying of their babies have been studied in mothers with and without clinical depression. For all women, these were the first children under the age of 18 months inclusive.

Initially, the initial state of the brain was recorded on the fMRI machine, and then they were allowed to listen to the crying of their child.

The responses of mothers with depression were not negative, as expected, but rather more muted. On fMRI , in response to the crying of babies, there were reactions in the limbic system of both hemispheres. Mainly in the striatum, thalamus and midbrain. These are deep subcortical structures responsible for emotions.

In the non-depressed mothers, these subcortical structures were much more activated than in the depressed group. Pronounced differences were observed in the striatum, in particular, in the caudate and nucleus accumbens, and in the medial thalamus.

Areas of the brain closely associated with motivation and positive reinforcement were activated.

Mothers without depression reacted positively to their children’s crying. They showed a desire to approach their children and they realized it when possible.

And in moms with depression, brain activation was often not enough to produce similar responses.

In women with severe depression, fMRI also showed decreased activity in the prefrontal region of the brain, especially in the anterior cingulate gyrus. These are areas of the brain associated with the evaluation of information, planning and regulating the response to incoming emotional signals.


Depression can have a long-term impact on mother and child and their relationship. Attention is drawn to the impossibility of a mother in a depressed state to correctly and optimally respond to the reactions of her child.

This requires coordination of the activity of the cortical and subcortical systems of the brain, which suffers from depressive states in the mother. And, it is possible that it leads to not quite correct formation of response emotional reactions in the child.

Such a mechanism can be considered as one of the risk factors for the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, minimal brain dysfunction in such a child.

The results obtained should be applied in the development of new treatments for depression in mothers. The researchers plan to continue studying these women and their children. Now they will cover the period from the intrauterine period to the first year of motherhood. The goal is to get a complete picture of how the brain works and the relationship between mother and child is formed during this critical period in the development of children.

Commentary by Professor Gimranov

It can be seen that the problem of depression affects not only the patients themselves, but also their children. It is clear that the same wrong reactions of the brain occur when communicating with relatives and friends. Constant use of antidepressants often exacerbates the problem.

Our experience shows that it is promising to activate the brain using transcranial magnetic stimulation. As can be seen from this work, such stimulation of subcortical structures is physiological, natural, and non-invasive. Unfortunately, politicians and various leaders also suffer from depression. And the consequences of the wrong reactions of their brain can be felt by the whole country, and sometimes the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *