Mental Health

Risk Of Depression And Anxiety Can Be Detected In Newborns

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.

Risk of Depression And Anxiety Can Be Detected in Newborns - What To Watch For

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.” 

Risk of Depression And Anxiety Can Be Detected in Newborns - What To Watch For

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
  • shyness
  • nervousness
All of these symptoms are strongly connected to the development of depression and anxiety in older children as well as in adults.

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.

10 Things You Will Learn With A Newborn

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. 

jenna
written by:

Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna traded in the cold mountain air for the laid back lifestyle of Australia nine years ago. She is now a mum to one son, one daughter, one dog and one cat, all of whom live with her and her partner in Cairns, QLD. When not writing about the ups and downs of parenting, she is usually outside doing some form of physical activity or indulging in a glass of antioxidant-infused fruit drink. Okay, it's wine.