Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 March 2020
Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe postpartum disorder. While working memory and emotional processing-related brain function are consistently impaired in psychoses unrelated to the puerperium, no studies have investigated them in PP.
Twenty-four women at risk of developing PP (11 developed an episode – PE; 13 remained well – NPE) and 20 healthy postpartum women completed two functional magnetic resonance imaging tasks within a year of delivery: working memory (n-back) and emotional face recognition (fearful faces). We compared women at-risk of PP to controls, as well as NPE, PE, and controls to test for potential effects of a PP episode occurrence.
Women at-risk of PP and PE showed hyperactivation of lateral visual areas, precuneus, and posterior cingulate during the n-back task. The at-risk group as a whole, as well as the PE and NPE groups, showed hyperconnectivity of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) with various parieto-occipito-temporo-cerebellar regions compared to controls during several n-back conditions. Increases in connectivity between the right DLPFC and ipsilateral middle temporal gyrus were observed in the PE group compared to NPE during 2-back. During the fearful faces task, at-risk women as a group showed hyperactivation of fronto-cingulo-subcortical regions, and hypoconnectivity between the left amygdala and ipsilateral occipito-parietal regions compared to controls. No significant performance differences were observed.
These results present preliminary evidence of a differential nature of functional brain abnormalities in PP compared to the typically observed reduced connectivity with the DLPFC in psychoses unrelated to puerperium, such as bipolar disorder.