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Trauma experienced by a mother even before pregnancy will influence her offspring's behavior
Date:5/12/2009

A new study in rats at the University of Haifa reveals: Trauma experienced by a mother even before pregnancy will influence her offspring's behavior.

*"The findings show that trauma from a mother's past, which does not directly impact her pregnancy, will affect her offspring's emotional and social behavior. We should consider whether such effects occur in humans too," stated Prof. Micah Leshem who carried out the study.*

A mother who experienced trauma prior to becoming pregnant affects the emotional and social behavior of her offspring. This was discovered for the first time in a new study that was carried out at the University of Haifa and published in the journal Developmental Psychology in a Special Section on "The Interplay of Biology and the Environment Broadly Defined."

The effects of trauma that a mother experienced in the course of pregnancy are known from earlier research, but until now the influence of adversity before conception has not been examined. The present research, carried out by Prof. Micah Leshem and Alice Shachar-Dadon of the University of Haifa and Prof. Jay Schulkin of the Georgetown University School of Medicine, is the first to examine these influences.

The researchers chose to investigate rats, as social mammals with cerebral activity that is similar in many ways to that of humans. The present study examined three groups of rats: one group was put through a series of stress-inducing activities two weeks before mating, allowing the female time to recover before becoming pregnant; the second group was similarly treated over the course of a week immediately prior to mating; and the third, control group, were not given any form of stress. When the rats' offspring reached maturity (at 60 days), the researchers examined their emotional behavior anxiety and depression and social behavior.

The main finding revealed that trauma experienced by the females prior to conception had varied effect
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Contact: Rachel Feldman
rfeldman@univ.haifa.ac.il
972-482-88722
University of Haifa
Source:Eurekalert

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