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

August 8, 2012
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 revises our knowledge of how the brain learns to fear

October 23, 2017
Our brains wire themselves up during development according to a series of remarkable genetic programs that have evolved over millions of years. But so much of our behavior is the product of things we learn only after we emerge ...

High-speed locomotion neurons found in the brainstem

October 23, 2017
Think of taking a casual stroll on a sunny Sunday afternoon or running at full speed to catch a bus for work on Monday morning as two extremes. Both forms of locomotion entail a perfect interplay between arms and legs, yet ...

Scientists use supercomputer to search for "memory molecules"

October 23, 2017
Until now, searching for genes related to memory capacity has been comparable to seeking out the proverbial "needle in a haystack." Scientists at the University of Basel made use of the CSCS supercomputer Piz Daint to discover ...

Researchers create tool to measure, control protein aggregation

October 22, 2017
A common thread ties seemingly unlinked disorders like Alzheimer's disease and type II diabetes together. This thread is known as protein aggregation and happens when proteins clump together. These complexes are a hallmark ...

Want to control your dreams? Here's how

October 19, 2017
New research at the University of Adelaide has found that a specific combination of techniques will increase people's chances of having lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they're dreaming while it's still happening ...

Researchers find shifting relationship between flexibility, modularity in the brain

October 19, 2017
A new study by Rice University researchers takes a step toward what they see as key to the advance of neuroscience: a better understanding of the relationship between the brain's flexibility and its modularity.

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.