The placenta has been the subject of scientific scrutiny over the years because of its potential benefits for the baby. Recently, researchers found that the placenta also plays a key role in the baby’s brain development.
According to Pat Levitt, director of the Zlikha Neurogenetic Institute of the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, “The placenta is not just a passive bag of cells sitting there just allowing things to flow freely between the mom and the fetus, we can think of it as a machine that can produce its own hormones, its own chemicals that can have an effect on the developing fetus itself.”
Serotonin, one of the chemicals found in abundance in the placenta, is responsible for mood, appetite, and sleep, also helps in the wiring of the brain by sending signals at a particular time while in the womb. It is also said to be an indicator of the symptoms of autism and schizophrenia. “The forebrain has the circuits that we know are disrupted in autism and schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, and in anxiety and depression,” Levitt says.
Researchers found that serotonin could not pass through the placenta, disproving the belief that mothers supply the serotonin for their baby. They feel positive with the results, as these new findings can help determine the risks of a baby of having brain illnesses later in life.