The brain system governing the emotional response is most heritable from mother to daughter, but less so from mother to son, a new study finds.
Fathers, though, are less likely to pass on their emotional brain circuitry to either boys or girls.
The ‘corticolimbic system’ plays an important role in mood disorders, such as depression.
The corticolimbic system is made up of the amydala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
The research could explain why depression is strongly heritable from mother to daughter.
Not that this means mothers are solely responsible for any depression which daughters develop, Dr Fumiko Hoeft explained:
“Many factors play a role in depression — genes that are not inherited from the mother, social environment, and life experiences, to name only three.
Mother-daughter transmission is just one piece of it.
But this is the first study to bridge animal and human clinical research and show a possible matrilineal transmission of human corticolimbic circuitry, which has been implicated in depression, by scanning both parents and offspring.
It opens the door to a whole new avenue of research looking at intergenerational transmission patterns in the human brain.”
The conclusions come from a series of brain scans conducted on 35 families.
The researchers found that the volume of grey matter was more similar in certain areas related to the emotions in mothers and daughters.
Other family relationships did not show the same strong connection.
Dr Hoeft continued:
“This gives us a potential new tool to better understand depression and other neuropsychiatric conditions, as most conditions seem to show intergenerational transmission patterns.
Anxiety, autism, addition, schizophrenia, dyslexia, you name it — brain patterns inherited from both mothers and fathers have an impact on just about all of them.”
The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience (Yamagata et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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