Summary: Fetal exposure to SRI antidepressants may affect the brain activity in newborns, a new study reports.
Source: University of Helsinki.
According a new study, fetal exposure to commonly used SRI drugs may affect brain activity in newborns. The researchers suggest that the effects of drugs on fetal brain function should be assessed more carefully, Indications for preventive medication should be critically evaluated, and non-pharmacological interventions should be the first-line treatment for depression and anxiety during pregnancy.
“We found many changes in the brain activity of SRI-exposed newborns,” says Professor Sampsa Vanhatalo, head of the BABA center at the Helsinki University Children’s Hospital. “Since the changes did not correlate with the mother’s psychiatric symptoms, we have assumed that they resulted as a side effect of maternal drug treatment.”
Depression and anxiety are commonly treated with SRI drugs that affect brain serotonin metabolism. These drugs are well tolerated and considered safe to use during pregnancy, because they are not seen to cause major malformations. It is estimated that up to 5% of all pregnant women use SRI medication.
However, several animal studies have shown that early SRI exposure may result in microscopic changes in fetal brain structure, as well as altered neuronal signaling. The already known side effect of this on human newborns is the transient ‘SRI syndrome,’ including such symptoms as respiratory problems during the first days of life. In addition, a recent Finnish long-term follow-up study conducted at the Universities of Helsinki and Turku showed that fetal exposure to SRI drugs increases the risk of childhood depression.
The present study in Helsinki is the first to examine the effects of SRI exposure directly on the brain activity of newborns. The study design aimed at distinguishing drug-related developmental effects from postnatal, environmental effects, such as potential changes in the mother-baby relationship due to maternal depression. The methodology for the detailed assessment of electrical brain function in newborns has been intensively developed at the BABA center of the Helsinki University Children’s Hospital. As a result of this work, it has become possible to examine newborn brain function in detail, and better translate between research on animal models and research on human infants.
The study, involving 22 mothers using SRI medication and 62 controls without medication, aimed at assessing how fetal SRI drug exposure or maternal psychiatric symptoms affect newborns’ neurological development and their brains’ electrical activity.
Structured behavioral and neurological assessments of the newborns showed only minor effects from fetal SRI exposure; however, brain electrical activity exhibited several differences between the study groups. The most important relate to less-organized communication between brain hemispheres, as well as weaker synchronization between cortical rhythms. These findings did not correlate with the scores on maternal depression or anxiety.
“The most interesting aspect in our observations is that comparable effects were recently found in animal experiments after fetal SRI exposure,” says principal investigator Dr. Mari Videman, senior consultant in child neurology. “This suggests that the early SRI effects on brain development may be comparable in humans and other species.”
The study’s psychiatric consultant, Adjunct Professor Outi Mantere from McGill University, Canada, emphasizes that pregnant mothers need treatment when they present with symptoms of depression or anxiety.
“The current guidelines do include non-pharmacological therapies as the first-line treatment,” says Mantere. “If the mother using an SRI plans a pregnancy, it would be advisable to consider a close follow-up or a therapeutic intervention without SRI medication. Recent experience with group therapy has shown promise in treating depression or anxiety during pregnancy, with effects that extend to the wellbeing of both mother and baby.”
“We hope that our study will facilitate the current international discussion and search for effective alternatives in the treatment of depression and anxiety during pregnancy,” adds Professor Vanhatalo.
About this neurodevelopment research article
The study was conducted mostly at the BABA center of the University of Helsinki Children’s Hospital. The research group included experts in clinical neurophysiology, child neurology, psychiatry, and psychology from the hospital’s Department of Psychiatry, as well as HUS Medical Imaging.
Source: Sampsa Vanhatalo – University of Helsinki Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to S Vanhatalo / Univ. of Helsinki. Original Research:Abstract for “Functional Bimodality in the Brain Networks of Preterm and Term Human Newborns” by Amir Omidvarnia, Peter Fransson, Marjo Metsäranta, and Sampsa Vanhatalo in Cerebral Cortex. Published online May 5 016 doi:10.1093/cercor/bht120
Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]University of Helsinki. “Antidepressants Taken During Pregnancy Can Affect Newborn Brain Activity.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 15 June 2016. <https://neurosciencenews.com/pregnancy-antidepressants-brain-activity-baby-4478/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]University of Helsinki. (2016, June 15). Antidepressants Taken During Pregnancy Can Affect Newborn Brain Activity. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved June 15, 2016 from https://neurosciencenews.com/pregnancy-antidepressants-brain-activity-baby-4478/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]University of Helsinki. “Antidepressants Taken During Pregnancy Can Affect Newborn Brain Activity.” https://neurosciencenews.com/pregnancy-antidepressants-brain-activity-baby-4478/ (accessed June 15, 2016).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
Functional Bimodality in the Brain Networks of Preterm and Term Human Newborns
The spontaneous brain activity exhibits long-range spatial correlations detected using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals in newborns when (1) long neuronal pathways are still developing, and (2) the electrical brain activity consists of developmentally unique, intermittent events believed to guide activity-dependent brain wiring. We studied this spontaneous electrical brain activity using multichannel electroencephalography (EEG) of premature and fullterm babies during sleep to assess the development of spatial integration during last months of gestation. Correlations of frequency-specific amplitudes were found to follow a robust bimodality: During low amplitudes (low mode), brain activity exhibited very weak spatial correlations. In contrast, the developmentally essential high-amplitude events (high mode) showed strong spatial correlations. There were no clear spatial patterns in the early preterm, but clear frontal and parieto-occipital modules at term age. A significant fronto-occipital gradient was also seen in the development of the graph measure clustering coefficient. Strikingly, no bimodality was found in the fMRI recordings of the fullterm babies, suggesting that early EEG activity and fMRI signal reflect different mechanisms of spatial coordination. The results are compatible with the idea that early developing human brain exhibits intermittent long-range spatial connections that likely provide the endogenous guidance for early activity-dependent development of brain networks.
“Functional Bimodality in the Brain Networks of Preterm and Term Human Newborns” by Amir Omidvarnia, Peter Fransson, Marjo Metsäranta, and Sampsa Vanhatalo in Cerebral Cortex. Published online May 5 016 doi:10.1093/cercor/bht120