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Front Cell Neurosci. 2015 May 27;9:207. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2015.00207. eCollection 2015.

Impact of prenatal environmental stress on cortical development.

Author information

1
Center for Neuroscience Research, Children's National Medical Center, Children's Research Institute Washington, DC, USA.
2
Center for Neuroscience Research, Children's National Medical Center, Children's Research Institute Washington, DC, USA ; Department of Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Physiology, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, The George Washington University Washington, DC, USA ; Department of Neurobiology, School of Medicine, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, Yale University New Haven, CT, USA.

Abstract

Prenatal exposure of the developing brain to various types of environmental stress increases susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. Given that even subtle perturbations by prenatal environmental stress in the cerebral cortex impair the cognitive and memory functions, this review focuses on underlying molecular mechanisms of pathological cortical development. We especially highlight recent works that utilized animal exposure models, human specimens or/and induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells to demonstrate: (1) molecular mechanisms shared by various types of environmental stressors, (2) the mechanisms by which the affected extracortical tissues indirectly impact the cortical development and function, and (3) interaction between prenatal environmental stress and the genetic predisposition of neuropsychiatric disorders. Finally, we discuss current challenges for achieving a comprehensive understanding of the role of environmentally disturbed molecular expressions in cortical maldevelopment, knowledge of which may eventually facilitate discovery of interventions for prenatal environment-linked neuropsychiatric disorders.

KEYWORDS:

alcohol; autism; cortical development; gene-environment interaction; iPS cells; maternal immune activation; prenatal environmental stress; schizophrenia

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