Natural birth -- but not C-section -- triggers brain-boosting proteins

August 8, 2012, Yale University
The UCP2 protein is expressed in natural birth. Credit: Michael Helfenbein, Horvath Lab, Yale University

Vaginal birth triggers the expression of a protein in the brains of newborns that improves brain development and function in adulthood, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers, who also found that this protein expression is impaired in the brains of offspring delivered by caesarean section (C-sections).

These findings are published in the August issue of by a team of researchers led by Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Research and chair of the Department of Comparative Medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

The team studied the effect of natural and surgical deliveries on mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) in mice. UCP2 is important for the proper development of hippocampal neurons and circuits. This area of the brain is responsible for short- and long-term memory. UCP2 is involved in of fat, which is a key component of breast milk, suggesting that induction of UCP2 by natural birth may aid the transition to breast feeding.

The researchers found that natural birth triggered UCP2 expression in the neurons located in the of the brain. This was diminished in the brains of mice born via C-section. Knocking out the UCP2 gene or chemically inhibiting UCP2 function interfered with the differentiation of hippocampal neurons and circuits, and impaired adult behaviors related to hippocampal functions.

"These results reveal a potentially critical role of UCP2 in the proper development of and related behaviors," said Horvath. "The increasing prevalence of C-sections driven by convenience rather than medical necessity may have a previously unsuspected lasting effect on brain development and function in humans as well."

Explore further: Neurons that control overeating also drive appetite for cocaine

More information: dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042911

Related Stories

Neurons that control overeating also drive appetite for cocaine

June 24, 2012
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have zeroed in on a set of neurons in the part of the brain that controls hunger, and found that these neurons are not only associated with overeating, but also linked to non-food associated ...

Sociability may depend upon brain cells generated in adolescence

October 4, 2011
Mice become profoundly anti-social when the creation of new brain cells is interrupted in adolescence, a surprising finding that may help researchers understand schizophrenia and other mental disorders, Yale researchers report.

Recommended for you

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

Neuroscientists suggest a model for how we gain volitional control of what we hold in our minds

January 16, 2018
Working memory is a sort of "mental sketchpad" that allows you to accomplish everyday tasks such as calling in your hungry family's takeout order and finding the bathroom you were just told "will be the third door on the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.