Higher Maternal Cortisol Correlates with Later Affective Problems

Somber data from Buss et al supporting the Barker Hypothesis/ Epigenetic programming for neuropsychiatric disorders:

Stress-related variation in the intrauterine milieu may impact brain development and emergent function, with long-term implications in terms of susceptibility for affective disorders. Studies in animals suggest limbic regions in the developing brain are particularly sensitive to exposure to the stress hormone cortisol. However, the nature, magnitude, and time course of these effects have not yet been adequately characterized in humans. A prospective, longitudinal study was conducted in 65 normal, healthy mother–child dyads to examine the association of maternal cortisol in early, mid-, and late gestation with subsequent measures at approximately 7 y age of child amygdala and hippocampus volume and affective problems. After accounting for the effects of potential confounding pre- and postnatal factors, higher maternal cortisol levels in earlier but not later gestation was associated with a larger right amygdala volume in girls (a 1 SD increase in cortisol was associated with a 6.4% increase in right amygdala volume), but not in boys. Moreover, higher maternal cortisol levels in early gestation was associated with more affective problems in girls, and this association was mediated, in part, by amygdala volume. No association between maternal cortisol in pregnancy and child hippocampus volume was observed in either sex. The current findings represent, to the best of our knowledge, the first report linking maternal stress hormone levels in human pregnancy with subsequent child amygdala volume and affect. The results underscore the importance of the intrauterine environment and suggest the origins of neuropsychiatric disorders may have their foundations early in life.
(Maternal cortisol over the course of pregnancy and subsequent child amygdala and hippocampus volumes and affective problems)

What are the long term social consequences for epigenetic programming of neuropsychiatric disorders?

Which demographic does this impact the most? Lower socioeconomic classes? Does this contribute to exacerbating inequality?

Not too long ago I read an article that showed that lower socioeconomic class was correlated with increased stress levels and decreased cognitive capacity.



Evidence Review: Cost Effective Policies for Improving Health and Longevity in America: Education and Maternal-Fetal Nutrition 
Barker-Hypothesis Policies

Cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and other obesity related health complications are among the top killers of American adults today. As these illnesses have grown increasingly more prevalent over the years they have taken the lead as the greatest contributors to rising health care costs. The aim of this paper is to identify how these diseases develop and address ways for preventing the onset of  chronic illness in order to improve health and longevity as a means of potentially curbing the rising cost of U.S. health care. Citing strong evidence, I posit that the single-most significant factor for improving national health is the proper maternal nutrition during the critical intrauterine, neonatal, and postnatal periods of child development. Additionally, I hypothesize that while maternal education programs may result in positive changes to a mother’s diet during her pregnancy period, it is the cost, availability and ease of access to quality nutritional foods which are tied to a country’s cultural lifestyles, and individuals’ socioeconomic class that primarily influences the success of this education policy.

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Barker-Hypothesis Policies”