Depression appears to be passed down from mothers to daughters, say researchers who have been looking at similarities in brain structures between generations. The research is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Around 8% of Americans aged 12 years and over are affected by depression. It is commonly found in both mothers and daughters, previous human studies have reported.
Animal studies in the past have shown that when mothers are stressed during pregnancy, this is more likely to be reflected in the brain structure of daughters than of sons, specifically in the corticolimbic system.
The corticolimbic system is used to assess danger, and it is also where emotions are processed and regulated. It includes the hippocampus, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and stress are reflected in changes to this system. These structural changes are most likely to be passed down from mothers than from fathers; they tend to affect daughters rather than sons.
Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), led by Dr. Fumiko Hoeft, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry, studied 35 families, none of whom had a diagnosis of depression, in an attempt to link the two study areas.