Fetal Programming of Brain Development: Intrauterine Stress and Susceptibility to Psychopathology

Sci. Signal., 9 October 2012
Vol. 5, Issue 245, p. pt7
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003406

Fetal Programming of Brain Development: Intrauterine Stress and Susceptibility to Psychopathology

  1. Claudia Buss1,5,*,
  2. Sonja Entringer1,5, and
  3. Pathik D. Wadhwa1,2,3,4,5
  1. 1Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
  2. 2Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
  3. 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
  5. 5University of California Irvine Development, Health and Disease Research Program, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
  1. *Presenter and corresponding author. E-mail: cbuss{at}uci.edu
A Presentation from the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology (ESPE) New Inroads to Child Health (NICHe) Conference on Stress Response and Child Health in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 18 to 20 May 2012.

Abstract

The fetal brain is highly plastic and is not only receptive to but requires cues from its environment to develop properly. Based on an understanding of evolutionary biology, developmental plasticity, and life history theory, one can predict that stressors are an important environmental condition that may influence brain development. In fact, the available empirical evidence appears to support the notion that exposure to excess stress in intrauterine life has the potential to adversely affect short- and long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes with implications for altered susceptibility for mental health disorders in childhood and adult life. In this presentation, we provide a rationale for proposing that endocrine and inflammatory stress mediators are key candidate pathways for programming brain development. These mediators are responsive to a diverse set of intrauterine perturbations and alter key signaling pathways critical for brain development, including but not limited to mammalian target of rapamycin, Wnt (wingless), Sonic hedgehog, and reelin signaling. We suggest that recent advances in neuroimaging and other methods now afford us an unprecedented opportunity to advance our understanding of this important topic. Additionally, we provide empirical evidence from two recently published papers for fetal programming of human brain development. We conclude by suggesting some future directions for expanding this field of research.

Citation:

C. Buss, S. Entringer, and P. D. Wadhwa, Fetal Programming of Brain Development: Intrauterine Stress and Susceptibility to Psychopathology. Sci. Signal. 5, pt7 (2012).

Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollution, Maternal Psychological Distress, and Child Behavior
F. P. Perera, S. Wang, V. Rauh, H. Zhou, L. Stigter, D. Camann, W. Jedrychowski, E. Mroz, and R. Majewska
Pediatrics 132, e1284-e1294 (1 November 2013)

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