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Cereb Cortex. 2017 Jun 1;27(6):3208-3216. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw153.

Newborn Brain Function Is Affected by Fetal Exposure to Maternal Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.

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Division of Pediatric Neurology, Department of Children and Adolescents.
BABA Center, Children's Hospital, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Children's Clinical Neurophysiology, HUS Medical Imaging Center and Children's Hospital.
Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.
Mental Health Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montréal, Canada.
Bipolar Disorders Clinic, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montréal, Canada.


Recent experimental animal studies have shown that fetal exposure to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) affects brain development. Modern recording methods and advanced computational analyses of scalp electroencephalography (EEG) have opened a possibility to study if comparable changes are also observed in the human neonatal brain. We recruited mothers using SRI during pregnancy (n = 22) and controls (n = 62). Mood and anxiety of mothers, newborn neurology, and newborn cortical function (EEG) were assessed. The EEG parameters were compared between newborns exposed to drugs versus controls, followed by comparisons of newborn EEG features with maternal psychiatric assessments. Neurological assessment showed subtle abnormalities in the SRI-exposed newborns. The computational EEG analyses disclosed a reduced interhemispheric connectivity, lower cross-frequency integration, as well as reduced frontal activity at low-frequency oscillations. These effects were not related to maternal depression or anxiety. Our results suggest that antenatal serotonergic treatment might change newborn brain function in a manner compatible with the recent experimental studies. The present EEG findings suggest links at the level of neuronal activity between human studies and animal experiments. These links will also enable bidirectional translation in future studies on the neuronal mechanisms and long-term neurodevelopmental effects of early SRI exposure.


EEG; SSRI; depression; neonatal; pregnancy

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