The part of the brain governing emotional regulation is more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from the former to sons or from fathers to their offspring, according to a new study published today, January 24, in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The structure called the corticolimbic system situated in the brain is behind the regulation and processing of emotions. It also appears to be involved in mood disorders like depression. For the first time, in the new study led by a UC San Francisco psychiatric researcher, this brain structure has been linked with the apparent association between mothers and daughters when it comes to depression.
Previous research suggests a strong correlation in depression between mothers and daughters. Yet others have shown that females have a greater likelihood of having modifications in the emotion-related brain structures than males when the mother has faced prenatal stress. The new research led by Fumiko Hoeft from the UCSF links these two aspects.
The corticolimbic system was analysed by Hoeft and her team with non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The volume of grey matter (GMV) present in the system was measured in parents and their offspring. The data was gathered from 35 healthy families, none of whom was diagnosed with depression. The results show a significantly greater link between the corticolimbic GMV of mothers and that of their daughters than between mothers and their sons, fathers and their sons and fathers and their daughters.
It is to be noted that depression has many more aspects to it, and not just that pertaining to what a mother might transmit to her daughter. For instance, the environment has its own effects, and genes not inherited from the maternal parent also play a role. The new paper only shows the side of the story dealing with the possible mother-daughter inheritance.
Hoeft explains that their findings has opened more avenues of research relating to transmission patterns in the brain from generation to generation. Depression as well as other neuropsychiatric conditions like anxiety, autism, schizophrenia, dyslexia amongst others, most of which seemingly display intergenerational transmission patterns, might be better understood thanks to the new data.