Comasco E, Hellgren C, Olivier J, Skalkidou A, Sundström Poromaa I
Psychoneuroendocrinology 60 (-) 217-223 [2015-10-00; online 2015-07-02]
Pregnancy is a period characterized by a supraphysiological hormonal status, and greater anxiety proneness, which can lead to peripartum affective symptoms with dramatic consequences not only for the woman but also for the child. Clinical psychiatry is heavily hampered by the paucity of objective and biology-based intermediate phenotypes. Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response, a neurophysiological measure of sensorimotor gating, has been poorly investigated in relation to anxiety and in pregnant women. In the present study, the PPI of healthy non-pregnant women (n = 82) and late pregnant women (n = 217) was investigated. Age, BMI, depression and anxiety symptoms, tobacco use, and antidepressant medication were considered. We investigated and provided evidence of lower PPI: (i) in healthy pregnant women compared to healthy non-pregnant controls, (ii) in pregnant women with anxiety disorders compared to healthy pregnant women, (iii) in pregnant women with anxiety disorders using SSRI compared to un-medicated pregnant women with anxiety disorders, and (iv) in healthy pregnant women carrying the COMT Val158Met Val/Val genotype compared to Met carriers. Altogether, a reduced sensorimotor gating as an effect of supraphysiological hormonal status, anxiety disorders, SSRIs, and catecholaminergic genotype, implicate the putative relevance of lower PPI as an objective biological correlate of anxiety proneness in pregnant women. These findings call for prospective studies to dissect the multifactorial influences on PPI in relation to mental health of pregnant women.