Mothers may pass on vulnerability to depression in much the same way they give their daughters green eyes or curly hair. The findings of a small study published in the Journal of Neuroscience show that girls might inherit a brain structure that is predisposed to mood disorders from their mothers.
Researchers focused on what’s known as the brain’s corticolimbic system, the interconnected brain areas responsible for regulating emotion that also influence depression, stress responses and memory. According to a report in the Thomson/Reuters, the researchers studied the brains of 35 families, including parents and their biological children, and found the particular contours of the corticolimbic system are more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons or from fathers to children of either gender.
“While our study was not directly done in depressed families, our findings may mean that if mothers have brain structural anomalies in the corticolimbic circuitry, their female but not male offspring are more likely to have similar abnormal structural patterns in the same brain regions, which would be consistent with how depression is linked within families,” said lead study author Dr. Fumiko Hoeft of the University of California, San Francisco.
Previous behavioural health studies have pointed to a strong link between psychiatric problems in mothers and similar mood disorders in their daughters, Hoeft and colleagues noted.