The sound of a crying baby can be enough to break the heart of any parent, but moms suffering from depression react differently to it than healthy moms.
A new study in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience reveals the brain scans of depressed moms were “muted” compared to nondepressed moms in regard to how each react to their crying babies.
The brain scans of healthy moms revealed “activation” in areas connected to the processing of reward and motivation, but the brains of those suffering from depression showed no such response.
According to MSNBC.com, the researchers, from the University of Wyoming, said the findings are consistent with healthy moms “wanting to approach their infants. Depressed mothers were really lacking in that response.”
It is the first study to look at brain activity via magnetic resonance imaging of depressed moms and how they respond to their crying babies, all of whom were 18-months-old at the time the research was conducted.
The finding are significant in a number ways, but especially because the way a mom responds to the cries of her baby can affect that child’s development. And the results of the study could affect how depression symptoms in mother are approached and treated in the future.
“Some of these prefrontal problems may be changed more easily by addressing current symptoms, but there may be deeper, longer-lasting deficits at the motivational levels of the brain that will take more time to overcome,” one of the researchers said.
According to the study authors, the next step for them is to follow women through pregnancy and the first year of their babies’ lives in order to get a better idea of the brain response during an earlier time of the infants’ development.
Having read a fair amount about depression and postpartum depression, the study sounds like a breakthrough, and moms who suffer through any type of blues can and deserve all the help they can get.