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Brain changes seen in newborns with Alzheimer’s mutation

Brain abnormalities seen on scans of adults with a gene mutation linked to Alzheimer’s disease have been found in brain scans of newborns with the same mutation, suggesting risk for the disease may develop in the womb for some, a study found.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina used an MRI to scan the brains of 272 newborns. The newborns also received a blood test to detect gene mutations that have been linked to conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s.

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The researchers found that infants with one gene mutation that has been associated with Alzheimer’s had brain changes similar to those of adults who had the same mutation. However, not all mutations found revealed brain changes similar to those seen in adults with the same mutations.

The study suggests that brain development in the womb may influence the risk of some mental illnesses or Alzheimer’s, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Brain abnormalities seen on scans of adults with a gene mutation linked to Alzheimer’s disease in adults have been found in brain scans of newborns, suggesting risk for the disease may develop in the womb.

CAUTIONS: It’s unclear whether infants with the same brain changes and gene mutations as adults with a mental disorder or Alzheimer’s will go on to develop these conditions.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Cerebral Cortex, Jan. 3

Antidepressants don’t increase the risk of stillbirth, study finds

Pregnant women who took antidepressants were not more likely to have a baby die during childbirth or infancy, according to research from the Netherlands.

The study looked at nearly 30,000 pregnant women from Nordic countries between 1996 and 2007 who were prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, an antidepressant medication with names such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil. While initial results suggested that the rates of stillbirths and postnatal deaths were higher among pregnant women who took antidepressants compared with those who didn’t, further statistical analysis found that antidepressants did not contribute to the higher rates. Instead, they were explained by differences between the two groups in the severity of mothers’ psychiatric condition, the age of mothers, and the number who smoked.

Previous studies suggested that mothers who suffer from depression while pregnant are more likely to deliver prematurely and have a baby with health problems and developmental delays. Taking antidepressants has also been shown to have a negative impact on a fetus. This study suggests that stillbirth and infant death may not be a concern, according to the researchers.

BOTTOM LINE: Pregnant women who took antidepressants were no more likely to have a baby die during childbirth or infancy than those who did not take antidepressants.

CAUTIONS: The researchers did not have data on what psychiatric illnesses the women were diagnosed with. The researchers assumed that women prescribed antidepressants took the medication.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 2

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