Exposure to unpredictable maternal sensory signals influences cognitive development across species.
ABSTRACT: Maternal care is a critical determinant of child development. However, our understanding of processes and mechanisms by which maternal behavior influences the developing human brain remains limited. Animal research has illustrated that patterns of sensory information is important in shaping neural circuits during development. Here we examined the relation between degree of predictability of maternal sensory signals early in life and subsequent cognitive function in both humans (n = 128 mother/infant dyads) and rats (n = 12 dams; 28 adolescents). Behaviors of mothers interacting with their offspring were observed in both species, and an entropy rate was calculated as a quantitative measure of degree of predictability of transitions among maternal sensory signals (visual, auditory, and tactile). Human cognitive function was assessed at age 2 y with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and at age 6.5 y with a hippocampus-dependent delayed-recall task. Rat hippocampus-dependent spatial memory was evaluated on postnatal days 49-60. Early life exposure to unpredictable sensory signals portended poor cognitive performance in both species. The present study provides evidence that predictability of maternal sensory signals early in life impacts cognitive function in both rats and humans. The parallel between experimental animal and observational human data lends support to the argument that predictability of maternal sensory signals causally influences cognitive development.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Early life experiences have persisting influence on brain function throughout life. Maternal signals constitute a primary source of early life experiences, and their quantity and quality during sensitive developmental periods exert enduring effects on cognitive function and emotional and social behaviors. Here we examined if, in addition to established qualitative dimensions of maternal behavior during her interactions with her infant and child, patterns of maternal signals may contribute to the maturation of children's executive functions. We focused primarily on effortful control, a potent predictor of mental health outcomes later in life. METHODS:In two independent prospective cohorts in Turku, Finland (N = 135), and Irvine, CA, USA (N = 192) that differed significantly in race/ethnicity and sociodemographic parameters, we assessed whether infant exposure to unpredictable patterns of maternal-derived sensory signals portended poor effortful control. OUTCOMES:In both the Irvine and Turku cohorts, unpredictable sequences of maternal behavior during infancy were associated with worse effortful control at one year of age. Longitudinal analyses demonstrated that this association persisted for as long as each cohort was assessed-until two years of age in the Turku cohort and to 9.5 years in the Irvine cohort. The relation of unpredictable maternal signals during infancy and the measures of executive function persisted after adjusting for covariates. INTERPRETATIONS:The consistency of our findings across two cohorts from different demographic backgrounds substantiated the finding that patterns, and specifically unpredictable sequences, of maternal behaviors may influence the development of executive functions which may be associated with vulnerability to subsequent psychopathology. FUND: This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards P50MH096889, HD051852, NS041298, HD02413, HD050662, HD065823, and by the FinnBrain funders: Academy of Finland (129839, 134950, 253270, 286829, 287908, 308176, 308252), Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, and State Research Grants (P3498, P3654).
Project description:Caretaking stability in the early life environment supports neurobehavioral development, while instability and neglect constitute adverse environments that can alter maturational processes. Research in humans suggests that different types of early life adversity (ELA) can have differential effects on caretaker relationships and later cognitive and social development; however, identifying mechanistic underpinnings will require animal models with translational validity. Two common rodent models, maternal separation (MS) and limited bedding (LB), influence the mother-infant relationship during a critical window of development. We hypothesized that these paradigms may affect the development of communication strategies on the part of the pup. Ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are a care-eliciting mechanism and ethologically relevant response to stressors in the rat pup. USV emission rates and acoustic parameters change throughout early development, presenting the opportunity to define developmental milestones in USVs that would reflect neurobehavioral aberrations if disrupted. This study investigated the effects of MS or LB on the dam-pup relationship by quantifying pup USVs, maternal behavior, and the relationship between the two. First, we used a generalized additive model approach to establish typical developmental trajectories of USV acoustic properties and determine windows of change in MS or LB rearing. Additionally, we quantified maternal behaviors and the predictability of maternal care sequences using an entropy rate calculation. MS and LB each shifted the developmental trajectories of USV acoustic parameters and call types in a sex-specific manner. MS more often impacted male USVs, while LB impacted female USVs. MS dams spent more time passive nursing, and LB dams spent more time on the nest. The predictability of maternal care was associated with the rate of USV emissions exclusively in females. Taken together, findings demonstrate sex- and model-specific effects of rearing environments on a novel developmental trajectory involving the mother-infant relationship, facilitating the translation of animal ELA paradigms to assess later-life consequences.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Infant cognitive development is influenced by maternal factors that range from obesity to early feeding and breast milk composition. Animal studies suggest a role for human milk oligosaccharide (HMO), 2'-fucosyllactose (2'FL), on learning and memory, yet no human studies have examined its impact on infant cognitive development relative to other HMOs and maternal factors.<h4>Objective</h4>To determine the impact of 2'FL from breast milk feeding on infant cognitive development at 24 months of age relative to maternal obesity and breast milk feeding frequency.<h4>Methods and materials</h4>Hispanic mother-infant pairs (N = 50) were recruited across the spectrum of pre-pregnancy BMI. Breast milk was collected at 1 and 6 months, and feedings/day were reported. Nineteen HMOs were analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography, with initial interest in 2'FL. Infant cognitive development score was assessed with the Bayley-III Scale at 24 months. Linear regressions were used for prediction, and bootstrapping to determine mediation by 2'FL.<h4>Results</h4>Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI was not related to feedings/day or HMOs, but predicted poorer infant cognitive development (? = -0.31, P = 0.03). Feedings/day (? = 0.34) and 2'FL (? = 0.59) at 1 month predicted better infant cognitive development (both P? 0.01). The association of feedings/day with infant cognitive development was no longer significant after further adjustment for 2'FL (estimated mediation effect = 0.13, P = 0.04). There were no associations of feedings/day and 2'FL at 6 months with infant cognitive development.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our findings suggest that maternal factors influence infant cognitive development through multiple means. Though maternal obesity may be a separate negative influence, greater frequency of breast milk feeding at 1 month contributed to infant cognitive development through greater exposure to 2'FL relative to other HMOs. The influence of 2'FL was not significant at 6 months, indicating that early exposure to 2'FL may be a critical temporal window for positively influencing infant cognitive development.
Project description:This study included 168 and 85 mother-infant dyads from Asian and United States of America cohorts to examine whether a genomic profile risk score for major depressive disorder (GPRSMDD) moderates the association between antenatal maternal depressive symptoms (or socio-economic status, SES) and fetal neurodevelopment, and to identify candidate biological processes underlying such association. Both cohorts showed a significant interaction between antenatal maternal depressive symptoms and infant GPRSMDD on the right amygdala volume. The Asian cohort also showed such interaction on the right hippocampal volume and shape, thickness of the orbitofrontal and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Likewise, a significant interaction between SES and infant GPRSMDD was on the right amygdala and hippocampal volumes and shapes. After controlling for each other, the interaction effect of antenatal maternal depressive symptoms and GPRSMDD was mainly shown on the right amygdala, while the interaction effect of SES and GPRSMDD was mainly shown on the right hippocampus. Bioinformatic analyses suggested neurotransmitter/neurotrophic signaling, SNAp REceptor complex, and glutamate receptor activity as common biological processes underlying the influence of antenatal maternal depressive symptoms on fetal cortico-limbic development. These findings suggest gene-environment interdependence in the fetal development of brain regions implicated in cognitive-emotional function. Candidate biological mechanisms involve a range of brain region-specific signaling pathways that converge on common processes of synaptic development.
Project description:The experience of motherhood is one of the most salient events in a woman's life. Motherhood is associated with a series of neurophysiological, psychological, and behavioral changes that allow women to better adapt to their new role as mothers. Infants communicate their needs and physiological states mainly through salient emotional expressions, and maternal responses to infant signals are critical for infant survival and development. In this study, we investigated the whole brain functional response to emotional infant faces in 20 new mothers and 22 nulliparous women during functional magnetic resonance imaging scans. New mothers showed higher brain activation in regions involved in infant facial expression processing and empathic and mentalizing networks than nulliparous women. Furthermore, magnitudes of the activation of the left parahippocampal gyrus and the left fusiform gyrus, recruited during facial expression processing, were positively correlated with empathic concern (EC) scores in new mothers when viewing emotional (happy-sad) faces contrasted to neutral faces. Taken together, these results indicate that the experience of being a mother affects human brain responses in visual and social cognitive brain areas and in brain areas associated with theory-of-mind related and empathic processing.
Project description:Variations in early life maternal care modulate hippocampal development to program distinct emotional-cognitive phenotypes that persist into adulthood. Adult rat offspring that received low compared with high levels of maternal licking and grooming (low LG offspring) in early postnatal life show reduced long term potentiation (LTP) and impaired hippocampal-dependent memory, suggesting a 'detrimental' maternal effect on neural development. However, these studies focused uniquely on the dorsal hippocampus. Emerging evidence suggests a distinct role of the ventral hippocampus in mediating aggression, anxiety, and fear-memory formation, which are enhanced in low LG offspring. We report that variations in maternal care in the rat associate with opposing effects on hippocampal function in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus. Reduced pup licking associated with suppressed LTP formation in the dorsal hippocampus, but enhanced ventral hippocampal LTP. Ventral hippocampal neurons in low LG offspring fired action potentials at lower threshold voltages that were of larger amplitude and faster rise rate in comparison with those in high LG offspring. Furthermore, recordings of excitatory postsynaptic potential-to-spike coupling (E-S coupling) revealed an increase in excitability of ventral hippocampal CA1 neurons in low LG offspring. These effects do not associate with changes in miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents or paired-pulse facilitation, suggesting a specific effect of maternal care on intrinsic excitability. These findings suggest region-specific influences of maternal care in shaping neural development and synaptic plasticity.
Project description:Evidence on long-term influences of maternal vitamin B12 deficiency or concentrations on infant cognition is limited. We examined associations between maternal plasma vitamin B12 and cognitive development in 24-month-old infants. Maternal plasma vitamin B12 concentrations were measured at 26-28 weeks' gestation; infant cognitive development was assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-III at 24 months, for 443 mother-infant pairs from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes cohort. Linear regressions adjusted for key confounders examined associations of maternal vitamin B12 with cognitive, receptive and expressive language, fine and gross motor subscales. Co-occurrence of maternal vitamin B12 with folate or vitamin B6 insufficiencies on child's cognition was explored. Average maternal plasma vitamin B12 concentrations was 220·5 ± 80·5 pmol/l; 15 % and 41 % of mothers were vitamin B12 deficient (<148 pmol/l) and insufficient (148-220·9 pmol/l), respectively. Infants of mothers with vitamin B12 deficiency had 0·42 (95 % CI -0·70, -0·14) sd lower cognitive scores, compared with infants of mothers with sufficient vitamin B12. Co-occurrence of maternal vitamins B12 and B6 insufficiencies was associated with 0·37 (95 % CI -0·69, -0·06) sd lower cognitive scores in infants compared with infants of mothers sufficient in both vitamins. No significant associations were observed with other subscales. Study findings suggest the possible need to ensure adequate vitamin B12 during pregnancy. The impact of co-occurrence of maternal B-vitamins insufficiencies on early cognitive development warrants further investigation.
Project description:Understanding the effects of environmental stimulation in autism can improve therapeutic interventions against debilitating sensory overload, social withdrawal, fear and anxiety. Here, we evaluate the role of environmental predictability on behavior and protein expression, and inter-individual differences, in the valproic acid (VPA) model of autism. Male rats embryonically exposed (E11.5) either to VPA, a known autism risk factor in humans, or to saline, were housed from weaning into adulthood in a standard laboratory environment, an unpredictably enriched environment, or a predictably enriched environment. Animals were tested for sociability, nociception, stereotypy, fear conditioning and anxiety, and for tissue content of glutamate signaling proteins in the primary somatosensory cortex, hippocampus and amygdala, and of corticosterone in plasma, amygdala and hippocampus. Standard group analyses on separate measures were complemented with a composite emotionality score, using Cronbach's Alpha analysis, and with multivariate profiling of individual animals, using Hierarchical Cluster Analysis. We found that predictable environmental enrichment prevented the development of hyper-emotionality in the VPA-exposed group, while unpredictable enrichment did not. Individual variation in the severity of the autistic-like symptoms (fear, anxiety, social withdrawal and sensory abnormalities) correlated with neurochemical profiles, and predicted their responsiveness to predictability in the environment. In controls, the association between socio-affective behaviors, neurochemical profiles and environmental predictability was negligible. This study suggests that rearing in a predictable environment prevents the development of hyper-emotional features in animals exposed to an autism risk factor, and demonstrates that unpredictable environments can lead to negative outcomes, even in the presence of environmental enrichment.
Project description:We use behavioral methods, magnetoencephalography, and functional MRI to investigate how human listeners discover temporal patterns and statistical regularities in complex sound sequences. Sensitivity to patterns is fundamental to sensory processing, in particular in the auditory system, because most auditory signals only have meaning as successions over time. Previous evidence suggests that the brain is tuned to the statistics of sensory stimulation. However, the process through which this arises has been elusive. We demonstrate that listeners are remarkably sensitive to the emergence of complex patterns within rapidly evolving sound sequences, performing on par with an ideal observer model. Brain responses reveal online processes of evidence accumulation--dynamic changes in tonic activity precisely correlate with the expected precision or predictability of ongoing auditory input--both in terms of deterministic (first-order) structure and the entropy of random sequences. Source analysis demonstrates an interaction between primary auditory cortex, hippocampus, and inferior frontal gyrus in the process of discovering the regularity within the ongoing sound sequence. The results are consistent with precision based predictive coding accounts of perceptual inference and provide compelling neurophysiological evidence of the brain's capacity to encode high-order temporal structure in sensory signals.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:We sought to evaluate whether maternal characteristics and infant developmental milieu were predictive of early cognitive development in HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) and HIV-unexposed uninfected (HU) infants in Uganda. DESIGN:Longitudinal pregnancy study. METHODS:Ugandan women (n = 228) were enrolled into the Postnatal Nutrition and Psychosocial Health Outcomes study with a 2:1 HIV-uninfected: infected ratio. Maternal sociodemographic, perceived social support, and depressive symptomatology were assessed. Infant growth and neurocognitive development were assessed at 6 and 12 months of age using Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL). Caldwell Home Observation for Home Environment was used to gauge caregiving quality. Linear mixed-effects models were built to examine the relationships between maternal and infant characteristics with infant MSEL scores by HIV exposure. RESULTS:Two MSEL measures were available for 215 mother-child dyads: 140 infants (65%) were HIV-uninfected (HU), 57 (27%) were HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) with mothers reporting antiretroviral therapy, and 18 (8%) were HEU with mothers not reporting antiretroviral therapy. HEU had lower MSEL Composite (? = -3.94, P = 0.03) and Gross Motor scores (? = -3.41, P = 0.01) than HU. Home Observation for Home Environment total score was positively associated with MSEL Composite (? = 0.81, P = 0.01), Receptive Language (? = 0.59, P = 0.001), and Expressive Language (? = 0.64, P = 0.01) scores. CONCLUSIONS:HIV exposure is associated with lower infant cognitive development scores. Increasing maternal quality of caregiving may improve early cognitive development.