University Of Southampton Logo The birth size and the weight of the placenta seem to be vital in determining the brain function of an individual. In a major breakthrough, experts found that brain function variations between the left and right sides of the brain are linked with the size at birth as well as the weight of the placenta. The study findings can possibly help understand the causes of mental health problems in later life.

As a part of the study, neurological responses of 140 children from Southampton were evaluated. All the subjects belonged to an age group of 8 to 9 years. Various tests were conducted to examine blood flow towards the brain in response to heightened brain activity, exposing differences in the activity of the two sides. Scientists assayed minute fluctuations in the temperature of the tympanic membrane within each ear, pinpointing blood flow into different parts of the brain.

“The way we grow before birth is influenced by many things including what our mothers eat during pregnancy and how much stress they are experiencing. This can have long-lasting implications for our mental and physical health in later life,” elucidated Dr Alexander Jones, an epidemiologist, who led the study at the University of Southampton. “This is the first time we’ve been able to link growth before birth to brain activity many years later. We hope this research can begin to shed new light on why certain people are more prone to diseases such as depression.”

Generally, an improper growth of the placenta and the fetus may take place during pregnancies where the mother has been experiencing stress or in which there have been problems with the availability of nutrients. At the time of the current study, it was affirmed that kids born small with comparatively large placentas had increased activity on the right side of their brains than the left. Such a pattern of brain activity can be supposedly correlated with mood disorders including depression. It was concluded that adverse environments experienced by fetuses during pregnancy possibly leads to long-term changes in the function of the brain.

The study was published in the online science journal, PLoS ONE.