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Dev Neuropsychol. 2001;19(2):211-36.

Prenatal neurobiological development: molecular mechanisms and anatomical change.

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  • 1Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, USA.


During prenatal development, the central nervous system is transformed from a thin layer of unspecified tissue into a complex system that can process information and organize actions. There are 8 general mechanisms that permit this transformation: neural induction, neurulation, proliferation, migration, axonal outgrowth, synaptogenesis, differentiation, and apoptosis. These processes as well as the anatomical changes they cause are described. Future research with humans, such as in utero MRI as well as behavioral and electrophysiological testing of infants following specific prenatal perturbations, is suggested to link the findings from molecular approaches to developmental neuropsychology.

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