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Dev Psychobiol. 2012 May;54(4):441-50. doi: 10.1002/dev.20606. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

High levels of antenatal maternal anxiety are associated with altered cognitive control in five-year-old children.

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Department of Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands.


This longitudinal prospective study examined the relation between maternal anxiety during pregnancy and specific aspects of children's cognitive functioning at age five. Antenatal maternal state-anxiety was measured around the 16th week of pregnancy. Children's neurocognitive functioning was examined using a simple reaction time (RT) task, and a choice RT task. Multiple regression analyses in the total sample (N = 922) showed that antenatal anxiety was positively related to children's intra-individual variability in RT in the simple task. In a subsample (n = 100) of women with state-anxiety scores above the 90th percentile, antenatal anxiety was positively associated with mean RT and intra-individual variability in RT in the incompatible trials of the choice RT task. In addition, in this subsample of highly anxious mothers we found a significant positive association in boys but not in girls, between prenatal maternal anxiety and intra-individual variability in RT in the simple task.

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