Can we look at babies brains to tell if they will be anxious or depressed later?

The amygdala and it's development has long been studied and associated with a variety of emotional disorders specifically trauma, phobias, bipolar disorder and other forms of depression and anxiety.
It has also been found to be associated with both fear and pleasure and has been studied in relationship to anger, appetite and sex to name a few more areas.

Most recently, researchers at Washington University say they were able to determine which babies were at an increased risk of developing symptoms related to depression and anxiety by looking at their brains.

Specifically, they looked at connections between the amygdala and other parts of the brain in an fmri scan, and were able to predict and determine whether these babies would exhibit symptoms at age two that are associated with later symptoms of anxiety and depression.

These symptoms called signs of behavioral inhibition include shyness, anxiety, and sadness. Washington U researchers believe that the brain connections they found suggest that the groundwork is already laid AT BIRTH for anxiety and depression to develop.

They intend to follow up when possible with these same children at 9 and 10 to determine what their brains look like ( have the connections changed or strengthened?) and if they have developed full blown anxiety, and or depression.

The implications of this study are important. If we can identify people at risk for anxiety and depression as young as infancy, we can intervene earlier!


Rogers C, Sylvester CM, Mintz C et al. Neonatal Amygdala Functional Connectivity at Rest in Healthy and Preterm Infants and Early Internalizing Symptoms. JAACAP. 2017.
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