In the Know: Sex-specific childhood behavior associations with placental corticotropin releasing hormone

The third trimester of pregnancy is a critical window of exposure for the developing fetal brain, and therefore, cognition and behavior later in life. This spring in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, Barrett et al. published a study investigating associations between childhood behavior and levels of placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH) during pregnancy. pCRH is released in increasing levels across pregnancy, responds to internal and external stressors, and may have a role in fetal neurodevelopment, due to its ability to cross the fetal blood-brain barrier. They utilized a large, diverse cohort through the ECHO-PATHWAYS consortium and found that there was no association between pCRH and child cognitive performance, however, associations between pCRH and problem behaviors were different between male and female children. Uniquely, their work utilizes a large, longitudinal cohort to study an analyte previously difficult to measure to better understand how the physiological and psychological stresses of pregnancy influence the developing brain into childhood.

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