Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Researchers Find Association Between SSRI Use During Pregnancy and Autism and Developmental Delays in Boys

In a study of nearly 1,000 mother-child pairs, researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public health found that prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a frequently prescribed treatment for depression, anxiety and other disorders, was associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delays (DD) in boys.

Brainstem abnormalities found in 'SIDS' infants, in both safe and unsafe sleep environments

The investigators, led by Hannah Kinney, MD, a neuropathologist at Boston Children's, have shown over the past two decades that infants who die suddenly, unexpectedly and without explanation—whose deaths are generally attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—have differences in brainstem chemistry that set them apart from infants dying of other causes.

Birth gets the brain ready to sense the world

"Our results clearly demonstrate that birth has active roles in brain formation and maturation," says senior study author Hiroshi Kawasaki of Kanazawa University in Japan. "We found that birth regulates neuronal circuit formation not only in the somatosensory system but also in the visual system. Therefore, it seems reasonable to speculate that birth actually plays a wider role in various brain regions."

Some autism behaviors linked to altered gene

"Our results suggest that we have found a mechanism by which a genetic mutation can disrupt serotonin signaling and lead to behavior that is characteristic of autism," Dougherty says. "Serotonin signaling is just one biological pathway that can be interrupted in patients with autism. We think similar investigations can find other pathways that may be important in this disease."