News | Neuro Imaging | February 01, 2016

Brain Structure Governing Emotion Is Passed from Mother to Daughter

Research is first evidence that brain structure implicated in depression may be inherited

emotional brain structure, mother to daughter, passed down, UCSF study

February 1, 2016 — A new study showed for the first time that the structure of the brain’s corticolimbic system is more likely to be passed from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons or from fathers to children of either gender. The corticolimbic system governs emotional regulation and processing and plays a role in mood disorders, including depression.

A large body of human clinical research indicates a strong association in depression between mothers and daughters, while many previous animal studies have shown that female offspring are more likely than males to show changes in emotion-associated brain structures in response to maternal prenatal stress. Until now, however, there have been few studies that attempted to link the two streams of research, said lead author Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D., a UC San Francisco associate professor of psychiatry.

The finding does not mean that mothers are necessarily responsible for their daughters' depression, Hoeft said. "Many factors play a role in depression – genes that are not inherited from the mother, social environment and life experiences, to name only three. Mother-daughter transmission is just one piece of it.

"But this is the first study to bridge animal and human clinical research and show a possible matrilineal transmission of human corticolimbic circuitry, which has been implicated in depression, by scanning both parents and offspring," said Hoeft, who directs the UCSF Hoeft Laboratory for Educational Neuroscience. “It opens the door to a whole new avenue of research looking at intergenerational transmission patterns in the human brain.”

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience on Jan. 27, 2016.

The corticolimbic system includes the amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Hoeft and her research team used non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure grey matter volume (GMV) in the corticolimbic systems of parents and their biological offspring from 35 healthy families. None of the family members were diagnosed with depression. The association between mothers' and daughters' corticolimbic GMV was significantly greater than that between mothers and sons, fathers and sons, and fathers and daughters.

The study is the first to use MRI in both parents and their children to study intergenerational transmission of the pattern of brain structures, said Hoeft. “This gives us a potential new tool to better understand depression and other neuropsychiatric conditions, as most conditions seem to show intergenerational transmission patterns,” she said. “Anxiety, autism, addition, schizophrenia, dyslexia, you name it – brain patterns inherited from both mothers and fathers have an impact on just about all of them.”

One limitation of the study, said Hoeft, is that it does not differentiate between the potential effects of genetics, prenatal conditions and postnatal conditions on the inheritance of brain structures. She hopes that a new study funded by the UCSF Academic Senate, which is just getting under way, will address that shortcoming.

Hoeft and her team will use MRI to study brain structures in families where children have been conceived and delivered using different types of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The researchers will image the brains of parents and children in families where the birth mother was implanted with a donor egg; families where a surrogate was implanted with the biological mother's egg; and families where the mother was implanted with her own fertilized egg in a procedure known as homologous IVF.

"With donor eggs, there is no maternal genetic input, but there is maternal prenatal and postnatal influence," Hoeft explained. "In gestational surrogacy, there is genetic and postnatal input from the biological mother, but no prenatal input. With homologous IVF, there are maternal genetic, prenatal and postnatal influences. Comparison of these three groups allows us to control for potential effects of the IVF procedure itself.”

By studying these different family groups, she said, “we will for the very first time be able to examine, and hopefully distinguish between, the effects of genetics, prenatal environment and postnatal environment on brain function, structure and cognitive function."

While Hoeft and her team are funded to look at corticolimbic circuitry, "this does not preclude our looking at other brain systems," she said. "We will be examining the language network, the reward system and different networks implicated in psychosis. We will cast a wide net, gain a lot of information and maximize this fantastic opportunity."

Other authors of the current study are Roeland Hancock, Ph.D., and Tony Yang, M.D., Ph.D., of UCSF; Bun Yamagata, M.D., Ph.D., and Masaru Mimura, M.D., Ph.D., of Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan; Kou Murayama, Ph.D., of the University of Reading, Reading, U.K.; Jessica Black, Ph.D., of Boston College; and Allan Reiss, M.D., of Stanford University.

The study was supported by funds from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, the UCSF Dyslexia Center, a UCSF Academic Senate Award, a UCSF-CCC Neuroscience Fellowship and the Dennis & Shannon Wong – DSEA ’88 Foundation.

For more information: www.jneurosci.org

Related Content

Schematic diagram of the proposed multichannel deep neural network model analyzing multiscale functional brain connectome for a classification task. rsfMRI = resting-state functional MRI.

Schematic diagram of the proposed multichannel deep neural network model analyzing multiscale functional brain connectome for a classification task. rsfMRI = resting-state functional MRI. Graphic courtesy of the Radiological Society of North America.

News | Artificial Intelligence | December 11, 2019
December 11, 2019 — Deep learning, a type of arti...
EMR patient portal on a smartphone
News | Electronic Medical Records (EMR) | December 11, 2019
December 11, 2019 — Despite the numerous benefits associated with patients accessing their medical records, a new stu
Damage from concussion alters the way information is transmitted between the two halves of the brain, according to a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Image courtesy of RSNA

News | Clinical Trials | December 10, 2019
December 10, 2019 — Damage from...
After receiving acupuncture treatment three days a week during the course of radiation treatment, head and neck cancer patients experienced less dry mouth, according to study results from researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Image by Rudolf Langer from Pixabay 

News | Clinical Trials | December 06, 2019
December 6, 2019 — After receiving acupuncture treatment three days a week during the course of...
Timothy Whelan is a professor of oncology at McMaster University and a radiation oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre of Hamilton Health Sciences. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer Research. Photo courtesy McMaster University

Timothy Whelan is a professor of oncology at McMaster University and a radiation oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre of Hamilton Health Sciences. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer Research. Photo courtesy McMaster University. Photo courtesy of McMaster University

News | Breast Imaging | December 06, 2019
December 6, 2019 — A shorter course of higher-dose radiation treatment to part of the breast is showing promise in wo
 MRI system cardiac scan from DeBakey Hospital
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | December 05, 2019
December 5, 2019 — The following is by Lawr
MRI Exablate neuro helmet from INSIGHTEC

MRI Exablate neuro helmet from INSIGHTEC. Image courtesy of Ali Rezai, M.D., and RSNA.

News | Clinical Trials | December 03, 2019
December 3, 2019 — Focused ultrasound is a safe and effective way to target and open areas of the blood-brain barrier
Image by Kira Hoffmann from Pixabay  #RSNA19

Image by Kira Hoffmann from Pixabay 

News | Clinical Trials | November 30, 2019
November 30, 2019 — Researchers are trying to identify injury patterns and predict future outcomes for victims of gun