Children of depressed mothers are three times more likely to develop depression in their lifetime. However, mechanisms of risk from mother to child are unclear, although research supports the importance of neural response to reward and of maternal socialization processes in the development of depression. Developmental affective neuroscience models suggest that depression is a disorder of problematic social functioning, with alterations in enjoying rewards within social contexts, and these reward-related difficulties may be associated with transmission of risk. Given that the development of psychopathology begins long before the emergence of symptoms, and given the importance of understanding early trajectories toward depression, the proposed MRSDA focuses on developmental changes that occur in the early school age period. Evaluating neural and behavioral processing of social rewards during the early school period may elucidate whether high risk children show alterations in positive affect during this developmental shift in social contexts and if these alterations are related to maternal socialization. The proposed MRSDA bridges the candidate's prior expertise in early childhood affective development with innovative research in developmental affective neuroscience to uniquely position her as a translational researcher evaluating clinically-relevant, reward-related neurobehavioral differences in early school age children at risk for depression. It is proposed that the combination of low positive affect and maternal discouragement of positive affect may contribute to self-regulatory processes that dampen positive affect during this developmental period, even though clinical levels of depressive symptoms may not emerge until the onset of puberty. To appropriately evaluate her research questions, the candidate will receive training in functional neuroanatomical and neural bases of affective and social processes across childhood and adolescence. The candidate will advance her training in maternal socialization processes associated with positive affect;designing, adapting, and conducting fMRI paradigms that assess reward function with a young child population;and advanced statistical analysis to evaluate brain-behavior associations and to conduct future longitudinal studies on the trajectory of risk for depression across development. Her mentorship team has extensive experience in developmental affective neuroscience and maternal socialization patterns (Drs. Forbes, Allen, Silk, Goodman), utilization of functional neuroimaging in young children to answer clinically-relevant questions (Drs. Luby and Perlman), and advanced statistical analysis (Dr. Iyengar). Altogether, the proposed MRSDA has the potential to advance the field of developmental affective neuroscience by identifying mechanisms of risk for depression and mechanisms of change for intervention.
Children of depressed mothers are three times more likely to develop depression, a debilitating disorder with high rates of morbidity and mortality, in their own lifetime. For these high risk children, the combination of reward-related neural differences and mothers'responses to their positive emotions in early childhood may contribute to children's difficulties with managing emotions that set the stage for developing depression later. Findings from the proposed MRSDA will not only identify one potential pathway to transmission of risk, but also clarify mechanisms of change (e.g., altering maternal socialization of positive affect) that can be used to prevent depression and develop better treatments.
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