Comasco E, Gulinello M, Hellgren C, Skalkidou A, Sylven S, Sundström-Poromaa I
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 26 (4) 767-776 [2016-04-00; online 2016-01-22]
The postpartum period is characterized by a post-withdrawal hormonal status, sleep deprivation, and susceptibility to affective disorders. Postpartum mothering involves automatic and attentional processes to screen out new external as well as internal stimuli. The present study investigated sensorimotor gating in relation to sleep duration, depression, as well as catecholaminergic and oxytocinergic genotypes in postpartum women. Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle reflex and startle reactivity were assessed two months postpartum in 141 healthy and 29 depressed women. The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met, and oxytocin receptor (OXTR) rs237885 and rs53576 polymorphisms were genotyped, and data on sleep duration were collected. Short sleep duration (less than four hours in the preceding night) and postpartum depression were independently associated with lower PPI. Also, women with postpartum depression had higher startle reactivity in comparison with controls. The OXTR rs237885 genotype was related to PPI in an allele dose-dependent mode, with T/T healthy postpartum women carriers displaying the lowest PPI. Reduced sensorimotor gating was associated with sleep deprivation and depressive symptoms during the postpartum period. Individual neurophysiological vulnerability might be mediated by oxytocinergic genotype which relates to bonding and stress response. These findings implicate the putative relevance of lower PPI of the startle response as an objective physiological correlate of liability to postpartum depression.