Exposure to early life adversity may disrupt the development and maturation of neurons and brain circuits, which, in turn, underlie neurodevelopment and mental illnesses. During fetal life, maternal adversity is conveyed to the developing brain via several molecular signals, including the stress hormone corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH). Employing a large well characterized prospective cohort, we find that fetal exposure to placental-origin CRH levels predicts structural and functional brain outcomes in children. Specifically, elevated placental CRH levels portend thinning of selective cortical regions of exposed individuals, with commensurate cognitive and emotional deficits. Notably, the relations of placental-origin CRH to cortical thinning and childhood symptoms are sex-specific. In view of the established effects of CRH on survival and arborization of cortical neurons, these findings position placental CRH as an important mediator of the consequences of early-life adversity on neuropsychiatric outcomes.
Sandman, C. A., Curran, M. M., Davis, E. P., Glynn, L. M., Head, K., & Baram, T. Z. (2018). Cortical thinning and neuropsychiatric outcomes in children exposed to prenatal adversity: A role for placental CRH? American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(5), 471-479. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16121433
American Psychiatric Publishing
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