During the last decade there has been increased recognition of the prevalence of antenatal depression as well as an expansion in research examining the impact of maternal mood during pregnancy on offspring development. The aim of this review was to summarise the theoretical underpinnings and empirical evidence regarding the impact of antenatal depression on children's developmental outcomes.
During gestation, development proceeds at a pace that is unmatched by any other stage of the life cycle. For these reasons the human fetus is particularly susceptible not only to organizing influences, but also to pathogenic disorganizing influences. Growing evidence suggests that exposure to prenatal adversity leads to neurological changes that underlie lifetime risks for mental illness. Beginning early in gestation, males and females show differential developmental trajectories and responses to stress.
In this review, we provide a brief summary of several key studies that broaden our understanding of stress and its epigenetic control of the function and behavior of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Clinical and animal studies suggest a link among exposure to stress, dysregulation of the HPA axis, and susceptibility to neuropsychiatric illnesses.
The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
BACKGROUND: Impaired stress resilience and a dysfunctional hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are suggested to play key roles in the pathophysiology of illness progression in bipolar disorder (BD), but the mechanisms leading to this dysfunction have never been elucidated. This study aimed to examine HPA axis activity and underlying molecular mechanisms in patients with BD and unaffected siblings of BD patients. METHODS: Twenty-four euthymic patients with BD, 18 siblings of BD patients, and 26 healthy controls were recruited for this study.
The early-life social environment can induce stable changes that influence neurodevelopment and mental health. Research focused on early-life adversity revealed that early-life experiences have a persistent impact on gene expression and behavior through epigenetic mechanisms. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is sensitive to changes in the early-life environment that associate with DNA methylation of a neuron-specific exon 17 promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) (Nr3c1).
The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science
There is now a well-established link between childhood maltreatment and psychosis. It is, however, unclear what the mechanisms are by which this occurs. Here, we propose a pathway linking the experience of childhood maltreatment with biological changes in the brain and suggest a psychological intervention to ameliorate its effects.
OBJECTIVE: Trauma experienced during childhood and adolescence has been linked to a number of chronic medical concerns. We highlight major findings from the pediatric trauma literature to provide a model for understanding this association. METHODS: Studies examining the effects of trauma were systematically reviewed and synthesized into a model proposing a central role for epigenetics in the ways that childhood experiences can affect health.
Altered stress reactivity is a predominant feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may reflect disease vulnerability, increasing the probability that an individual will develop PTSD following trauma exposure. Environmental factors, particularly prior stress history, contribute to the developmental programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal stress axis. Critically, the consequences of stress experiences are transgenerational, with parental stress exposure impacting stress reactivity and PTSD risk in subsequent generations.
Clinical and pre-clinical studies have shown that early-life adversities, such as abuse or neglect, can increase the vulnerability to develop psychopathologies and cognitive decline later in life. Remarkably, the lasting consequences of stress during this sensitive period on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and emotional function closely resemble the long-term effects of early malnutrition and suggest a possible common pathway mediating these effects.
Some of the latest advances in personalized psychiatry with future research directions are discussed in this article. Many factors contribute to the phenotypic psychiatric profile in individual patients. These overlapping factors include but are not limited to genetics, epigenetics, central nervous system circuit alterations, family history, past personal history, environmental influences including early life stress, and more recent life stressors. The authors discuss the role of pharmacogenomics, particularly in the cytochrome P450 enzyme system in relation to treatment response.