Mental health may be influenced by the earliest stages of infancy

The state of a person’s mental health throughout life may stem from experiences not only in childhood, but in the earliest stages of infancy.

Brain scans done on 272 newborns for a study by the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine indicated that the genetic links to illnesses such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease may develop as early as the prenatal state.

Magnetic renonance imaging (MRI) scans were administered to the babies soon after they were born. Screenings focused on 10 gene variations linked to conditions such as depression, autism, bipolar and anxiety disorders as well as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

“These results suggest that prenatal brain development may be a very important influence on psychiatric risk later in life,” said study author Rebecca Knickmeyer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry. “This could stimulate an exciting new line of research focused on preventing onset of illness through very early intervention in at-risk individuals.”

The study was published recently in the medical journal Cerebral Cortex.

John Gilmore, M.D., vice chair for research and scientific affairs in the UNC Department of Psychiatry, said such similarities weren’t found among every genetic variation examined in the study. He said each gene has a unique effect on brain development.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) calls genes the “building blocks of inheritance,” passed from parents to children in their DNA structure. While considered experimental, strides have been made to improve lessen genetic disorders through procedures that allow doctors to swap abnormal genes with normal ones and repair destructive gene variations, the NIH reports.

Beyond arming themselves with genetic knowledge, people can take steps to ensure their own healthy brain development with a nutritious diet and supplements that aid their cognitive development. OmegaKrill from Dr. Newton’s Naturals promotes good brain health, joint comfort and normal blood pressure levels as it fortifies both the body and brain.