Susanne Stickel published her review article – Cumulative cortisol exposure in the third trimester correlates with postpartum mothers’ neural response to emotional interference
Prolonged stress affects the central nervous system, rendering individuals vulnerable to a wide range of mental health disorders. 76 healthy postpartum mothers were studied by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging within 6 days of childbirth. The subjects were required to perform the emotional Stroop task involving happy and anxious word-face combinations. Hair samples were collected to determine cumulative hair cortisol concentration (HCC) in the third trimester.
HCC was found to be negatively correlated with the recruitment of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the midcingulate cortex (MCC). In response to the emotional interference of only anxious target faces, a negative correlation was seen between HCC and the bilateral orbitofrontal cortex, extending to the rostral ACC and the MCC.
Women with lower HCC recruited brain areas relevant to emotional cognitive control, indicating that lower HCC helps preserve conflict monitoring and resolution capacities and thus benefits mental health in pregnancy.