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Pediatr Neurol. 2008 Mar;38(3):163-76. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2007.10.009.

Fetal mechanisms in neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Department of Neurology and Developmental Medicine, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 707 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Normal development of the central nervous system depends on complex, dynamic mechanisms with multiple spatial and temporal components during gestation. Neurodevelopmental disorders may originate during fetal life from genetic as well as intrauterine and extrauterine factors that affect the fetal-maternal environment. Fetal neurodevelopment depends on cell programs, developmental trajectories, synaptic plasticity, and oligodendrocyte maturation, which are variously modifiable by factors such as stress and endocrine disruption, exposure to pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and to drugs such as terbutaline, maternal teratogenic alleles, and premature birth. Current research illustrates how altered fetal mechanisms may affect long-term physiological and behavioral functions of the central nervous system more significantly than they affect its form, and these effects may be transgenerational. This research emphasizes the diversity of such prenatal mechanisms and the need to expand our understanding of how, when altered, they may lead to disordered development, the signs of which may not appear until long after birth.

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