Neuromag July 2018 - Page 10

important for social processing and emotion regulation. This may shed some light on the transition women go through in order to adapt and prepare themselves for looking after a baby. While women often report a subjective decline in certain cognitive functions such as memory deficits or decreased processing speed, evolutionarily this may actually support a theory of a reallocation of cognitive resources fo- cusing on upcoming demands of pro- tecting and caring for a baby [7]. Female sex hormones such as estra- diol or progesterone play a crucial role during this process with an enormous increase up to 100 fold in late preg- nancy. This change in hormonal con- centrations influences women not only physically but also in their perception of the world around them. Accordingly, estradiol seems to influence emotion processing leading to an increase of the accuracy to encode emotional ex- pressions signaling threat or harm [8]. Therefore in this subproject we will investigate the neural underpinnings of emotion regulation in pregnant and non-pregnant women and will further investigate the pregnant women 18 months after giving birth. Thereby we will be able to examine the impact of pregnancy compared to motherhood on emotion regulation success. Preventing stress in pregnancy – the relaxed fetus The hormone cortisoI, known as the ‘stress hormone’ is one major fac- tor for stress regulation. Additionally in pregnancy, the mother has to deal with many changes and concerns about the fetus. This way an increased cortisol level can lead to metabolic or psychological changes in the mother. Therefore, it is important to prevent Copyrights of image in this figure by International Affective Picture System (IAPS) stress and to improve the mothers’ well-being during pregnancy. Re- garding fetal development, the factor ‘stress’ in pregnancy may lead to the overall question, if stress or relaxation in pregnancy has any impact on the fe- tal nervous system. Over the last dec- ades there is growing evidence that increased maternal stress levels lead to an adverse effect on the physiologi- cal, metabolic and neuronal develop- ment of the fetus during gestation with possible long-lasting effects. At the University of Tübingen we have the unique and rare possibility of measuring fetal brain and heart activ- ity with fetal magnetencephalography (fMEG). Fetal Magnetoencephalogra- phy allows the recording of event-re- lated responses (ER) to auditory [10] and visual stimuli [11] in fetuses. The latency of the ERs is an indicator for neurological development [12]. This measurement method allows insights into fetal brain development and helps to add knowledge about fetal develop- ment. To investigate the role of relaxa- tion on fetal activity, we will measure fetal development between 29 weeks of gestation and birth. Changes in heart activity and brain signals will be investigated under induced maternal relaxation. Copyright: University Hospital Tübingen, Germany 10 | NEUROMAG | July 2018 Pregnancy and psychiatric comor- bidity – Prediction of maternal men- tal health. From an obstetric point of view, men- tal health problems, together with obesity, are the two most common health problems encountered in preg- nant women. They are stressors for the women and even for the fetus. Clearly, psychiatric hospitalizations, post-partum depression or psycho- ses, self-harm or suicides, child ne- glect, abuse, and even infanticide during or shortly after pregnancy all represent severe adverse outcomes of psychiatric comorbidity, where the health care system has a responsibil- ity to minimize the burden of adversity by early identification and adequate treatment of pregnant women with mental disorders. As mentioned be- fore, there are several biological (e.g., hormones, immune/inflammatory, genetic) and psychosocial (e.g., stress, support) risk factors, however, up to now, rarely have neuronal, physi- ological and psychosocial factors been combined and consequently tested about their prediction value regarding maternal mental health. Therefore, we are particularly interested in whether resting-state functional connectivity in concert with other factors may con-