About this Research Topic
Maternal mental illness, both during pregnancy and beyond, has devastating consequence for mothers and fathers, their children, and society at large. Depression affects 15-20% of perinatal women and is often cited as the most common complication of childbirth, with suicide being a leading cause of death in the first year postpartum. Anxiety rates in some studies are even higher, with other maternal mental illness (OCD, postpartum psychosis) being less common but even more serious. Psychosocial risk factors for perinatal mental illness are well established, and include young age, low social support, low income, early life adversity, preexisting mental illness, and family history – but our understanding of the neurobiology associated with these disorders is limited.
Recent research has started to point toward an important role of neuroplasticity, neuroendocrinology, the immune system, and stress in maternal mental illness. Increasingly, this research involves direct measurement of brain structure and function, either through neuroimaging, through physiological responses to psychological stressors, or through direct investigation using animal models. Research thus far has been limited by small sample sizes, by the difficulty of replicating human symptoms in animal models, and by a focus on individual systems rather than crosstalk among systems. Our goal in this Research Topic is to bring together these disparate threads of research, both basic and clinical, with a common focus on measurable biological targets and brain functioning.
In this Research Topic, we welcome basic and clinical researchers to submit proposals addressing the following topics as they relate to symptoms of psychiatric illness in the perinatal period.
Suggested topics include peripartum mental illness and
• Neuroplasticity in pregnancy and postpartum
• Neurotransmitter systems
• Neuroinflammation and immune activation in the pregnant and postpartum brain
• Brain changes in relation to maternal care-giving
• The stress response system (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis)
• Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis
• Neuropeptide systems
• Neuroscience of lactation
• Brain changes in fathers and non-birthing parents
• Neuroscience of pregnancy loss and miscarriage
We welcome both animal and human research. We are especially eager to see articles that have clear translational outcomes that highlight targets for improving mental health during the peripartum period. Studies that pinpoint specific brain changes – through neuroimaging, the use of animal models or through measurement of biomarkers (accompanied by an explanation of how and why changes in those biomarkers may affect parental brain function) are welcome. Priority will be given to studies, reviews, and perspectives that focus on the parental brain or on neural synchrony during parent-infant interactions as they related to mental illness.
Keywords: perinatal, depression, anxiety, neurobiology, brain
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.