Is this why we become like our mothers?

mother and daughter

Ever caught yourself reacting to a situation just as your mother would? Science may explain the strong link between mothers and daughters …

The link between mothers and daughters

A study of 35 families, led by a psychiatric researcher, showed that the structure of the brain circuitry known as the corticolimbic system is more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons, or from fathers to children of either gender.

The corticolimbic system governs emotional regulation and processing and plays a role in mood disorders, including depression.

Feeling like mom

A large body of human clinical research indicates a strong association in depression between mothers and daughters. Many previous animal studies have shown that female offspring are more likely than males to show changes in emotion-associated brain structures in response to maternal prenatal stress.

Until now, there have been few studies that attempted to link the two streams of research, said lead author Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD, a UCSF associate professor of psychiatry.

Are mothers ‘to blame’ for daughters’ depression?

The finding does not mean that mothers are necessarily responsible for their daughters’ depression, Hoeft said.

“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.

The brain circuitry known as the corticolimbic system is more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons or from fathers to their children.

“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,” said Hoeft, who directs the UCSF Hoeft Laboratory for Educational Neuroscience. “It opens the door to a whole new avenue of research looking at intergenerational transmission patterns in the human brain.”

The study is the first to use MRI in both parents and their children to study intergenerational transmission of the pattern of brain structures, said Hoeft.

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