Natural Birth -- But Not C-Section -- Triggers Brain-Boosting Proteins

Publication Date: 
August 2012

ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2012) — Vaginal birth triggers the expression of a protein
in the brains of newborns that improves brain development and function in
adulthood, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers, who
also found that this protein expression is impaired in the brains of offspring
delivered by caesarean section (C-sections).

These findings are published in the August issue of PLoS ONE by a team of
researchers led by Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of
Biomedical Research and chair of the Department of Comparative Medicine at Yale
School of Medicine.

The team studied the effect of natural and surgical deliveries on mitochondrial
uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) in mice. UCP2 is important for the proper
development of hippocampal neurons and circuits. This area of the brain is
responsible for short- and long-term memory. UCP2 is involved in cellular
metabolism of fat, which is a key component of breast milk, suggesting that
induction of UCP2 by natural birth may aid the transition to breast feeding.

The researchers found that natural birth triggered UCP2 expression in the
neurons located in the hippocampal region of the brain. This was diminished in
the brains of mice born via C-section. Knocking out the UCP2 gene or chemically
inhibiting UCP2 function interfered with the differentiation of hippocampal
neurons and circuits, and impaired adult behaviors related to hippocampal functions.

"These results reveal a potentially critical role of UCP2 in the proper
development of brain circuits and related behaviors," said Horvath. "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."

Other authors on the study included Julia Simon-Areces, Marcelo O. Dietrich,
Gretchen Hermes, Luis Miguel Garcia-Segura, and Maria-Angeles Arevalo.The study
was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Yale University. The
original article was written by Karen N. Peart.

Journal Reference:

Julia Simon-Areces, Marcelo O. Dietrich, Gretchen Hermes, Luis Miguel
Garcia-Segura, Maria-Angeles Arevalo, Tamas L. Horvath. Ucp2 Induced by Natural
Birth Regulates Neuronal Differentiation of the Hippocampus and Related Adult
Behavior. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e42911 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042911

Yale University (2012, August 8). Natural birth -- but not C-section -- triggers
brain-boosting proteins. ScienceDaily. Retrieved