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Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2010 Oct;88(10):895-905. doi: 10.1002/bdra.20721.

The neurobehavioral teratology of retinoids: a 50-year history.

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Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts-Boston, 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA 02125, USA.


This review of the central nervous system (CNS) and behavioral teratology of the retinoids over the last 50 years is a commemorative retrospective organized by decade to show the prominent research focus within each period and the most salient findings. In the 1960s, research focused on the gross CNS malformations associated with exposure and the delineation of dose-response and stage-specific responses in rodent models. Relevant scientific events before and during the 1960s are also discussed to provide the zeitgeist in which the field of neurobehavioral teratology emerged in the 1970s. During this period, studies demonstrated that adverse effects on postnatal behavior could be produced in animals exposed to doses of vitamin A lower than those that were teratogenic or impacted growth. Work during the 1980s showed an overrepresentation of behavioral studies focused on the reliability of screening methods, while the marked effects of human exposure were illustrated in children born to women treated with isotretinoin during pregnancy. The human catastrophe invigorated research during the 1990s, a period when technological advances allowed more elegant examinations of the developing CNS, of biochemical, cellular, and molecular developmental events and regulatory actions, and of the effects of direct genetic manipulations. Likewise, research in the 1990s reflected a reinvigoration of research in neurobehavioral teratology evinced in studies that used animal models to try to better understand human vulnerability. These foci continued in the 2000-2010 period while examinations of the role of retinoids in brain development and lifelong functioning became increasingly sophisticated and broader in scope. This review of the work on retinoids also provides a lens on the more general ontogeny of the field of neurobehavioral teratology. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2010.

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