Do C-Sections Short-Change Brain Development?


According to Yale School of Medicine researchers, children born vaginally experience different brain development and function as adults than do their caesarean section peers. The findings appeared in this month's issue of PloS ONE.

Natural birth or surgical birth appears to have an effect on what is referred to as mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2, or UCP2, a key protein in the development of neurons and circuits in the brain's hippocampus, where both long-term and short-term memories are kept. The protein also features prominently in the metabolism of fat inside the cell—a crucial part of breast milk.

This discovery led the researchers to conclude that natural birth induces the UCP2 protein and then smooths the transition over to breast feeding.

Natural birth appear to kick-start the expression of the UCP2 protein in neurons within the hippocampus, while in subjects delivered by caesarean section they found the UCP2 expression in those same regional neurons significantly diminished. In the laboratory, if researchers either knocked or found a method to inhibit the expression of the protein they could mimic the developmental defects in the hippocampus among caesarean section subjects in mice models.

The researchers concluded that "the increasing prevalence of C-sections driven by convenience rather than medical necessity may have a previously unsuspected lasting effect on brain development and function in humans as well."

Source: Medical News Today


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