Neural differences seen in women with postpartum depression

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that women with postpartum depression have reduced activity in parts of the brain that manage emotional responses and recognize emotional cues in others.

Researchers conducted MRIs on 30 mothers of infants and found that negative emotion faces activated the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex significantly less in depressed mothers than in healthy moms. These deficits might represent diminished awareness of the emotions of others and less empathy for them, according to researchers.

When the women saw negative images, communication between the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and the left amygdala was seen in healthy moms but not in the depressed ones, suggesting that this might be an important neural circuit that regulates emotional response to unpleasant sounds, such as a baby’s cry.

These new findings were published online Sept. 15 by the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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