UCI’s Dr. Tallie Z. Baram and colleagues discovered that erratic maternal care
of infants can increase the likelihood of risky behaviors, drug seeking and
depression in adolescence and adult life. Steve Zylius / UC Irvine Communication
(January 5, 2016) UCI study shows maternal infant-rearing link to adolescent depression
Mothers, put down your smartphones when caring for your babies! That’s the message from University of California, Irvine researchers, who have found that fragmented and chaotic maternal care can disrupt proper brain development, which can lead to emotional disorders later in life.
While the study was conducted with rodents, its findings imply that when mothers are nurturing their infants, numerous everyday interruptions – even those as seemingly harmless as phone calls and text messages – can have a long-lasting impact.
Dr. Tallie Z. Baram and her colleagues at UCI’s Conte Center on Brain Programming in Adolescent Vulnerabilities show that consistent rhythms and patterns of maternal care seem to be crucially important for the developing brain, which needs predictable and continuous stimuli to ensure the growth of robust neuron networks. Study results appear today in Translational Psychiatry.
The UCI researchers discovered that erratic maternal care of infants can increase the likelihood of risky behaviors, drug seeking and depression in adolescence and adult life. Because cellphones have become so ubiquitous and users have become so accustomed to frequently checking and utilizing them, the findings of this study are highly relevant to today’s mothers and babies … and tomorrow’s adolescents and adults.
“It is known that vulnerability to emotional disorders, such as depression, derives from interactions between our genes and the environment, especially during sensitive developmental periods,” said Baram, the Danette “Dee Dee” Shepard Chair in Neurological Studies.