Relations Between Maternal Prenatal Stress, Fetal Brain Connectivity, and Gestational Age

Conducted by Moriah E. Thomason, Jasmine L. Hect, PISC Senior Scholar Rebecca Waller, PhD, and Paul Curtin, this study aimed to identify whether maternal prenatal stress is associated with variation in human brain functional connectivity prior to birth. After analyzing fetal fMRI in 118 fetuses and controlling for maternal health behaviors, social support, and birth outcomes, the study found that increased maternal prenatal negative stress was associated with alterations in fetal frontoparietal, striatal, and temporoparietal connectivity. It also found that these associations were stronger in women with better health behaviors, more positive interpersonal support, and lower overall stress -- such results imply that positive interpersonal and health behaviors could potentially mitigate prenatal brain programming, and improve child outcomes.

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