Babies born extremely prematurely may be more susceptible to anxiety in later life. Researchers have used brain scans to better understand how and why – and which babies are most at risk.
Babies born before 32 weeks of pregnancy are thought to be nearly twice as likely to have problems with anxiety during their teenage years.
With funding from Action and Dangoor Education, Professor Chiara Nosarti and her team at King’s College London have been working to develop a way to identify which children are most likely to be affected.
Their findings have showed that early changes in babies’ brains can be used to predict how they may regulate their emotions later in life. This could allow the most vulnerable children to be identified early and to receive targeted therapies or treatments to protect their mental health as they grow up.
This study is a step forward in helping to recognise the early biological factors that can indicate mental health problems. This could allow the most vulnerable children to be identified early in life and receive targeted therapies or treatments to prevent problems. These interventions could help prevent or avert the development of emotional disorders, allowing children to grow up emotionally healthy and avoiding distress for children and their families.