• The research shows the part of the brain which controls our feelings is more likely to be passed down from mothers to female offspring than to sons -or from fathers to children of either gender.
It is the first evidence that the brain area linked to depression is hereditary. A study of 35 families looked at the structure of the brain circuitry known as the corticolimbic system. The corticolimbic system governs emotional regulation and processing and plays a role in mood disorders, including depression. Previous research indicates a strong link in depression between mothers and daughters, while many previous animal studies have shown that female offspring are more likely than males to show changes in emotion-associated brain structures in response to maternal pre-natal stress.
- Until now there have been few studies that have attempted to link the two streams of research. But study lead author Doctor Fumiko Hoeft, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, said the finding does not mean that mothers are necessarily responsible for their daughters’ depression.
The association between mothers’ and daughters’ corticolimbic GMV was significantly greater than that between mothers and sons, fathers and sons, and fathers and daughters. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to use MRI in both parents and their children to study inter-generational transmission of the pattern of brain structures. Dr Hoeft said, “This gives us a potential new tool to better understand depression and other neuropsychiatric conditions, as most conditions seem to show intergenerational transmission patterns. Anxiety, autism, addition, schizophrenia, dyslexia, you name it -brain patterns inherited from both mothers and fathers have an impact on just about all of them.”