It’s been proven that children can suffer from depression and anxiety but just how early can mental illness be detected?
Researchers who analysed the brain activity of newborns confirm that depression and anxiety can start to take form in the first moments of life.
Newborn Brain Connectivity Patterns May Predict Mental Illness
Although newborns may not be capable of expressing their emotions too well, new findings have revealed that it is possible to see certain brain connectivity in newborns that can predict the baby’s likelihood of developing mental illness at a later stage.
Scanning For Depression
The study took MRI scans of 112 newborns, born both prematurely and at full term. The infants were then assessed two years later and monitored for early stages of depression and anxiety. The full report was published in the February 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
The findings discovered that there are certain brain patterns already present at birth that can predict later risks of mental illness.
According to Dr. Cynthia Rogers, a child psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis and lead study author, “[Brain connectivity patterns] may indicate that for some children their brains are developing along a trajectory that increases their risk for mental health symptoms as they develop.”
Mental Illness In Early Childhood
Children that experience this type of brain connectivity pattern are also more likely to experience early signs of depression and anxiety as infants and toddlers. These early signs include:
- separation anxiety
- general sadness
Dr. Rogers points out that many children will grow out of these patterns as they grow older. The findings do not suggest that all babies who do display these early signs will develop a mental illness.
“It is also likely that experiences that these children have after birth continue to affect the amygdala connectivity with other brain regions and that may determine who goes on to have impairing symptoms,” Dr. Rogers adds.
The researchers plan on reassessing the children again when they are nine years old to conclude their study. Hopefully the results can help ensure children who do display an increased risk of mental illness receive the support they require as early as possible.
If you are concerned that your child may have depression or anxiety, please read about how you can manage it right here.