Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study finds that treatment of maternal depression with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) can accelerate babies' ability to attune to the sounds and sights of their native language, while maternal depression untreated by SRIs may prolong the period of tuning.
"This study is among the first to show how maternal depression and its treatment can change the timing of language development in babies," says Prof. Janet Werker of UBC's Dept. of Psychology, the study's senior author. "At this point, we do not know if accelerating or delaying these milestones in development has lasting consequences on later language acquisition, or if alternate developmental pathways exist. We aim to explore these and other important questions in future studies."
The study followed three groups of mothers – one being treated for depression with SRIs, one with depression not taking antidepressants and one with no symptoms of depression. By measuring changes in heart rate and eye movement to sounds and video images of native and non-native languages, the researchers calculated the language development of babies at three intervals, including six and 10 months of age. Researchers also studied how the heart rates of unborn babies responded to languages at the age of 36 weeks in the uterus.
"The findings highlight the importance of environmental factors on infant development and put us in a better position to support not only optimal language development in children but also maternal well-being," says Werker, who adds that treatment of maternal depression is crucial. "We also hope to explore more classes of antidepressants to determine if they have similar or different impacts on early childhood development."
High resolution photos of Werker (reading to children) and co-author Tim Oberlander are available upon request.
"These findings once again remind us that poor mental health during pregnancy is a major public health issue for mothers and their infants," says co-author Dr. Tim Oberlander, a professor of developmental pediatrics at UBC and CFRI. "Non-treatment is never an option. While some infants might be at risk, others may benefit from mother's treatment with an antidepressant during their pregnancy. At this stage we are just not sure why some but not all infants are affected in the same way. It is really important that pregnant women discuss all treatment options with their physicians or midwives."
Previous research by Werker has found that during the first months of life, babies rapidly attune to the language sounds they hear and the sights they see (movements in the face that accompany talking) of their native languages. After this foundational period of language recognition, babies begin focusing on acquiring their native tongues and effectively ignore other languages.
The current study suggests that this key developmental period – which typically ends between the ages of eight and nine months – can be accelerated or delayed, in some cases by several months. In another recent study, Werker has found that this development period lasts longer for babies in bilingual households than in monolingual babies, particularly for the face recognition aspects of speech.
The maternal depression and language acquisition study was co-authored by UBC post-doctoral fellow Whitney Weikum at CFRI, Tim Oberlander of CFRI, UBC's Dept. of Pediatrics and BC Children's Hospital, and Takao Hensch, a professor of neurology at Harvard University.
This program of research was funded by agencies including the Human Frontiers Research Program (HFSP), the Canadian Institutes for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the Michael Smith Foundation, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Janet Werker | EurekAlert!
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy