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Unread April 24th, 2007, 03:46 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Good Mothers and Short Alleles

JW-Psychiatry is almost an essential read for me and a subscription (about $120) gives you access not only reviews of papers in psychiatry but also about a dozen other medical specialties. This latest review is by the distinguished Barbara Geller. The interpretive problems, however, are subtle: I hope that hers is correct because I like happy endings and because it is consistent with Steven Suomi's findings with young rhesus monkeys. Nasty mothers have short alleles for managing serotonin and so do their offspring. Insert a competent mother and hyperactive, impulsive, slow developers have better outcomes.

Good Mothering, Good Mood -- For Some Nurturance during childhood may protect against depression in adults with certain serotonin-receptor polymorphisms.
By Barbara Geller, MD


"Although researchers have found interactions between serotonin-transporter polymorphisms and the environment to have an impact on depression, we know less about the role of other serotonin-related genes. These researchers
focused on polymorphisms in the serotonin-receptor 2A gene (HTR2A).

"Participants were from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study, which followed 3596 individuals for 21 years (age range at baseline, 3-18 years). Researchers randomly selected 1593 subjects for genotyping of the T102C
polymorphism; data from 1212 are included in this report. Maternal nurturance was measured on a four-item scale at baseline and 3 years later, and participants reported depressive symptoms in adulthood (age range, 20-39). Of the group, 9.8% carried the T/T genotype, 45.5% carried the C/C genotype, and 44.7% were heterozygotes. Analyses controlled for sex and age, which did not differ in the groups.

"Depressive-symptom scores in adulthood were not associated with any genotype. However, the scores were affected significantly by an interaction between nurturing level in childhood and genotype. Participants with T/T
and T/C genotypes and high maternal nurturance had significantly lower mean depressive-symptom scores than did participants with the C/C genotype and high nurturing as well as participants with any genotype and low nurturing.

"Comment: Researchers have previously found that interested adult social support can protect against childhood depressive symptoms even among those
with the high-risk serotonin-transporter allele (Journal Watch Psychiatry Jan 12 2005). The current results provide another example of the protective effects of nurturing environments and expand the arena to the interaction
between maternal involvement and the serotonin-receptor 2A allele."

-- Barbara Geller, MD

Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry April 23, 2007


Jokela M et al. Serotonin receptor 2A gene and the influence of childhood maternal nurturance on adulthood depressive symptoms. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2007 Mar; 64:356-60. (Subscription may be required) (Free)
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Unread February 19th, 2008, 04:14 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Lightbulb Maternal Origins of Depression?

David Cohen (Stranger in the Nest) was an early exponent of prenatal effects but, for that matter, so was Frank Galton! The debates continue, however, about the extent and timing. I have argued elsewhere, for example, that prenatal changes may account for most of the differences that Frank Sulloway has studied.


from Journal Watch, 2/15/08

"Anxiety during pregnancy may predispose daughters to depressive symptoms later in life. In animal research, maternal stress during pregnancy has been associated with dysregulation of cortisol rhythms and emotional responses in offspring, possibly due to "reprogramming" of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis during fetal development. This hypothesis has been tested, with mixed results, in cross-sectional, retrospective human studies and in a few prospective studies of prepubertal children. These results remained significant after controlling for confounders, including obstetric outcome, maternal smoking, and birth weight. In these adolescents, there was no evidence of childhood maltreatment, previously associated with adult cortisol dysregulation and depression... The association with a specific antenatal period is consistent with a "fetal reprogramming" process that depends on critical time windows. The sex-specific nature of the finding is novel and worthy of further research. The small sample size, limited cortisol sampling, and inability to evaluate possible genetic effects or gene–environment interactions are limitations that need to be addressed in future studies.
— Peter Roy-Byrne, MD

Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry February 15, 2008

Van den Bergh BRH et al. Antenatal maternal anxiety is related to HPA-axis dysregulation and self-reported depressive symptoms in adolescence: A prospective study on the fetal origins of depressed mood. Neuropsychopharmacology 2008 Feb; 33:536.

from Medline
"Depressive symptomatology can proceed from altered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortex (HPA)-axis function. Some authors stress the role that early life stress (ELS) may play in the pathophysiology of depressive symptoms. However, the involvement of the HPA-axis in linking prenatal ELS with depressive symptoms has not been tested in a prospective-longitudinal study extending until after puberty in humans. Therefore, we examined whether antenatal maternal anxiety is associated with disturbances in HPA-axis regulation and whether the HPA-axis dysregulation mediates the association between antenatal maternal anxiety and depressive symptoms in post-pubertal adolescents. As part of a prospective-longitudinal study, we investigated maternal anxiety at 12-22, 23-32, and 32-40 weeks of pregnancy (wp) with the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). In the 14-15-year-old offspring (n=58) HPA-axis function was measured through establishing a saliva cortisol day-time profile. Depressive symptoms were measured with the Children's Depression symptoms Inventory (CDI). Results of regression analyses showed that antenatal exposure to maternal anxiety at 12-22 wp was in both sexes associated with a high, flattened cortisol day-time profile (P=0.0463) which, in female adolescents only, was associated with depressive symptoms (P=0.0077). All effects remained after controlling for maternal smoking, birth weight, obstetrical optimality, maternal postnatal anxiety and puberty phase. Our prospective study demonstrates, for the first time, the involvement of the HPA-axis in the link between antenatal maternal anxiety/prenatal ELS and depressive symptoms for post-pubertal female adolescents.Neuropsychopharmacology (2008) 33, 536-545; doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1301450; published online 16 May 2007."
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