Brain circuits for successful emotional development established during infancy

October 10, 2018, University of North Carolina Health Care
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers in the UNC Early Brain Development Study tracking the development of the brain's emotion circuitry in infancy found that adult-like functional brain connections for emotional regulation emerge during the first year of life. And the growth of these brain circuits during the second year of life predicted the IQ and emotional control of the children at 4 years old, suggesting new avenues for early detection and intervention for children who are at risk for emotional problems.

These results were published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

"If confirmed in future studies, these findings suggest that it may be possible to identify children at risk for behavioral difficulties associated with psychiatric disorders very early in life, allowing early intervention to reduce risk and improve long term behavioral outcomes," said John Gilmore, MD, co-senior author of the study, the Thad and Alice Eure Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair for Research & Scientific Affairs in UNC's Department of Psychiatry, and director of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health.

The results were based on an analysis of brain imaging findings from 223 infants in the ongoing UNC Early Brain Development Study. Gilmore and colleagues focused on a core hub of emotion processing in a region of the brain called the amygdala and its connections with other emotion-related areas. Atypical processing in the amygdala is linked to disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia in adults. The new findings that track the of the emotional control system during infancy provide a clue as to when atypical development may lead to enduring effects on emotion and cognition later in life.

"Through the lens of functional MRI, this study shows that the essential for successful in adults are absent in neonates but emerge in 1 and 2-year-olds, providing the foundation for successful emotional development," said co-senior author Wei Gao, Ph.D., who was a faculty member in the UNC School of Medicine when this work began. Now he is an associate professor and director of neuroimaging research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Growth rates of the emotion circuitry during the second year of life predicted anxiety and emotional regulation in the children at 4 years old. Growth also predicted IQ at 4 years old, indicating its importance not just for the development of later in life, but also cognition.

Explore further: People with depression have stronger emotional responses to negative memories

Related Stories

People with depression have stronger emotional responses to negative memories

March 6, 2018
People with major depressive disorder (MDD) feel more negative emotion when remembering painful experiences than people without the disorder, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. ...

Changes in brain networks may help youth adapt to childhood adversity

July 5, 2016
A new study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging reports a neural signature of emotional adaptation that could help researchers understand how the brain adapts to childhood adversity and predict ...

Researchers identify key brain circuits for reward-seeking and avoidance behavior

August 23, 2018
Researchers have identified connections between neurons in brain systems associated with reward, stress, and emotion. Conducted in mice, the new study may help untangle multiple psychiatric conditions, including alcohol use ...

Parent-child interactive intervention cuts depression

August 4, 2018
(HealthDay)—An intervention targeting depression in very young children can be effective in community settings, according to a study published online June 20 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Research reveals importance of early parent-child relations in emotional development

January 15, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Reading and University College London (UCL), found that the quality of the relationship in the first 18-months of life predicted the way ...

Size, connectivity of brain region linked to anxiety level in young children

November 20, 2013
Prolonged stress and anxiety during childhood is a risk factor for developing anxiety disorders and depression later in life. Now, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have shown that by measuring the size and ...

Recommended for you

Study points to possible new therapy for hearing loss

October 15, 2018
Researchers have taken an important step toward what may become a new approach to restore hearing loss. In a new study, out today in the European Journal of Neuroscience, scientists have been able to regrow the sensory hair ...

Sugar, a 'sweet' tool to understand brain injuries

October 15, 2018
Australian researchers have developed ground-breaking new technology which could prove crucial in treating brain injuries and have multiple other applications, including testing the success of cancer therapies.

Scientists examine how neuropathic pain responds to Metformin

October 15, 2018
Scientists seeking an effective treatment for one type of chronic pain believe a ubiquitous, generic diabetes medication might solve both the discomfort and the mental deficits that go with the pain.

Abnormal vision in childhood can affect brain functions

October 13, 2018
A research team has discovered that abnormal vision in childhood can affect the development of higher-level brain areas responsible for things such as attention.

Study: Ketogenic diet appears to prevent cognitive decline in mice

October 12, 2018
We've all experienced a "gut feeling"—when we know deep down inside that something is true. That phenomenon and others (like "butterflies in the stomach") aptly describe what scientists have now demonstrated: that the gut ...

Two seemingly opposing forces in the brain actually cooperate to enhance memory formation

October 12, 2018
The brain allows organisms to learn and adapt to their surroundings. It does this by literally changing the connections, or synapses, between neurons, strengthening meaningful patterns of neural activity in order to store ...

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.