European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 115–118 | Cite as

Development of children born to mothers with mental health problems: subcortical volumes and cognitive performance at 4½ years

  • Astrid BjørnebekkEmail author
  • Torill S. Siqveland
  • Kristin Haabrekke
  • Vibeke Moe
  • Kari Slinning
  • Anders M. Fjell
  • Kristine B. Walhovd
Brief Report


In a prospective longitudinal study, we investigated the outcomes of children born to mothers clinically referred for mental health problems during pregnancy (risk group, n = 17) relative to a control group (n = 31). Child cognitive functioning, and for subgroups (n = 10 + 17), brain morphometry as derived from Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), was measured at 4½ years. Cognitive data included abstract visuospatial reasoning/problem solving and verbal scores. Subcortical regions of interest included the amygdala, accumbens area, hippocampus, caudate and putamen, chosen because their development seems potentially sensitive to an adverse intrauterine milieu and environmental experiences, and also due to their implication in cognitive and emotional processes. The risk group exhibited poorer abstract reasoning scores than the control group. No differences were found for verbal scores. MRI revealed smaller putamen volume in children in the risk group. Irrespective of group, putamen volume was positively related to visuospatial reasoning performance. Our results suggest that maternal psychopathology may be associated with child putamen development, nonverbal reasoning and problem solving skills.


Maternal psychopathology Neuroimaging Cognitive development Brain morphology Abstract reasoning Putamen 



We thank Paulina Due-Tønnesen for neuroradiological evaluations. This work was supported by the Research Council of Norway.

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have competing financial interests regarding this work.

Supplementary material

787_2014_625_MOESM1_ESM.docx (278 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 278 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Astrid Bjørnebekk
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Torill S. Siqveland
    • 3
  • Kristin Haabrekke
    • 3
    • 4
  • Vibeke Moe
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kari Slinning
    • 3
    • 4
  • Anders M. Fjell
    • 1
  • Kristine B. Walhovd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Research Group for Lifespan Changes in Brain and CognitionUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Unit of Neuropsychology, Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationOslo University Hospital, UllevaalOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  4. 4.National Institute of Infant Mental Health, Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Eastern and Southern Norway (RBUP)OsloNorway

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