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Int Neuropsychiatr Dis J. 2013;1(1):89-103.

In Six-month-old Infants, Prenatal Exposure to Maternal Anxiety is Associated with Less Developed Smooth Pursuit Eye Movements: An Initial Study.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Denver, Campus Box F546, 13001 E 17 Pl, Aurora, CO 80045, USA ; School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
2
Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Denver, Campus Box F546, 13001 E 17 Pl, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.

Abstract

AIMS:

There are an increasing number of reports suggesting an association between maternal anxiety experienced during pregnancy and adverse outcomes of the offspring. However, exploration of the biological changes in the brain that mediate that relationship has been hampered by the lack of appropriate biomarkers. This report represents an initial step exploring whether a potential infant biomarker, smooth pursuit eye movements, may be associated with prenatal exposure to maternal anxiety.

STUDY DESIGN:

Blinded cross-sectional study.

PLACE AND DURATION OF STUDY:

Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine. Data collected from July 2011 to May 2012.

METHODOLOGY:

Forty-three infants including 34 whose prenatal maternal anxiety status was identified (12 with a known maternal prenatal anxiety diagnosis and 22 without) had eye movements recorded during a smooth pursuit eye movement task at four and/or six months of age.

RESULTS:

At 6 months of age, infants with prenatal exposure to maternal anxiety, compared to infants without such exposure, spent a higher percentage of time utilizing smooth pursuit (t=2.7, df=24, P=.013), had longer duration of smooth pursuit uninterrupted by saccades (t=2.5, df=24, P=.019), and had decreased frequency of forward saccades (t=3.8, df=24, P=.001). No differences between groups were identified at 4 months of age.

CONCLUSION:

Smooth pursuit abnormalities may, at six months of age, be a potential biomarker for prenatal maternal anxiety exposure.

KEYWORDS:

anxiety; infants; pregnancy; smooth pursuit

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