Maternal depression is associated with decreased functional connectivity within semantics and phonology networks in preschool children

Rola Farah, Jonathan Dudley, John S. Hutton, Paige Greenwood, Scott Holland, Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Maternal depression is characterized by a lack of emotional responsiveness and engagement with their child, which may lead to the child's decreased cognitive, and language outcomes all related to the child's future reading outcomes. The relations between maternal depression and functional connectivity in neural circuits supporting language in the child was explored. Methods: Eleven 4-year-old girls completed language abilities assessment and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. Their mothers completed the Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI) to examine maternal depression when the child was 12 months old and at the age of 4. Functional connections within the child's resting-state phonology, semantics, language networks were correlated with maternal BDI scores at the age of 4 years. Results: Higher maternal depression was associated with the child's decreased within the semantic and phonological networks connectivity during rest. Higher maternal depression at 4 years moderated the relationship between early depression scores and functional connectivity within the phonological network. Conclusions: Maternal depression in the first year of life is related to functional connections of phonological processing and enhanced by current maternal depression levels. We conclude that after a mother gives birth, resources should be provided to minimize depressive symptoms and interventions should be applied to support their child's language development for future reading acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-835
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

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© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • child development
  • child language processing
  • functional connectivity
  • maternal depression
  • resting state fMRI


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