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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Jun;35(7):1484-501. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.04.010. Epub 2011 Apr 20.

Prenatal stress in birds: pathways, effects, function and perspectives.

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Behavioural Biology, Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


Although most work on prenatal stress has been conducted on mammalian species, birds provide useful alternative models since avian embryos develop outside the mother's body in a concealed environment, the egg, which is produced during a short time window of 4-14 days. This facilitates measurement of maternal substances provided for and manipulation of the embryo without interfering with the mother's physiology. We critically review prenatal corticosterone mediated effects in birds by reviewing both studies were females had elevated levels of plasma corticosterone during egg formation and studies applying corticosterone injections directly into the egg. A selected review of the mammalian literature is used as background. The results suggest that besides prenatal exposure to corticosterone itself, maternal corticosterone affects offspring's behaviour and physiology via alteration of other egg components. However, results are inconsistent, perhaps due to the interaction with variation in the post-natal environment, sex, age, developmental mode and details of treatment. The potential role of adaptive maternal programming has not been tested adequately and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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