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This section provides an update of articles we feel will be of interest to the TelAbility community. To see a list of articles in our archive, click here.

The Effects of Maternal Depression on Young Children
Date: 03/10/2008
Author: Geraldine Dawson, Profession University of Washington

Many studies have indicated that maternal depression is correlated with infant irritability, delayed development, and later behavior problems. Dr. Dawson?s research indicates that the interaction between depressed moms and their babies is actually related to those children?s brain functioning.

Activity in the left frontal lobe of the brain?s cortex is associated with outwardly-directed emotion such as joy, interest, and curiosity. The right lobe is associated with withdrawal emotion such as distress and sadness. Dr. Dawson found that babies of depressed mothers showed less activity in the left frontal lobe and more activity in the right frontal lobe (compared to babies of non-depressed mothers). For those children whose mother?s depression improved, brain activity returned to normal. At age three, children whose mothers remained depressed continued to show differences in brain functioning, as well as problems with emotional regulation, aggressiveness, sleep patterns, and higher levels of stress hormone (cortisol).

Dawson says, ?What we are learning is that very early in life there are these periods when certain parts of the brain are being wired and that later in life these patterns will be very difficult to change. We believe that by experiencing different emotions you?re stimulating different parts of the brain and that this leads to connections between the synapses.?

In other words, children who experience smiles and happy emotions from caregivers may have brains that are ?prepared? for experiencing those emotions, while children who experience apathy, irritability, or sadness may develop brains that are predisposed to experiencing those negative emotions.

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