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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005 Apr;29(2):259-69. Epub 2004 Dec 15.

High antenatal maternal anxiety is related to impulsivity during performance on cognitive tasks in 14- and 15-year-olds.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Catholic University Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


This study prospectively investigated the influence of antenatal maternal anxiety, measured with the State Trait Anxiety Inventory at 12-22, 23-31 and 32-40 postmenstrual weeks of pregnancy, on cognitive functioning in 57 adolescents (mean age 15 years). ANCOVAs showed effects of State anxiety at 12-22 weeks, after controlling for influences of State anxiety in later pregnancy and postnatal maternal Trait anxiety. Adolescents of high anxious pregnant women reacted impulsively in the Encoding task; they responded faster but made more errors than adolescents of low anxious women. They also scored lower on two administered WISC-R subtests. In the Stop task no differences in inhibiting ongoing responses were found between adolescents of high and low anxious pregnant women. We suspect that high maternal anxiety in the first half of pregnancy may negatively affect brain development of the fetus, reflected by impulsivity and lower WISC-R scores at 14-15 years.

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