Developmental brain alterations in 17 year old boys are related to antenatal maternal anxiety

M. Mennes*, B. van den Bergh, L. Lagae, P. Stiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between maternal anxiety during pregnancy and the brain activity of 17 year old adolescents performing two cognitive control tasks. METHODS: Twenty-three 17 year old boys of mothers whose level of anxiety was measured during pregnancy were investigated using ERP while performing a Go/Nogo paradigm assessing exogenous cognitive control and a Gambling paradigm requiring endogenous cognitive control. RESULTS: No effects of antenatal maternal anxiety were observed in the Go/Nogo paradigm. However, in the Gambling paradigm adolescents of the high anxiety group (n=8) showed a less efficient pattern of decision making compared to the adolescents in the low-average anxiety group (n=15). Moreover, only for this task the ERP data showed an enlarged early frontal P2a component in the high anxiety group. CONCLUSIONS: The brain activity of adolescents during an endogenous cognitive control task is associated to the level of anxiety experienced by their mother during pregnancy. This association was not observed during an exogenous cognitive control task. SIGNIFICANCE: This study indicates that a child's brain functionality is related to its mother's anxiety during pregnancy. Endogenous cognitive control is regarded the cognitive function most affected by the level of antenatal maternal anxiety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1116-1122
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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