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Womb grown psychiatric disorders
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Neurodevelopmental disorders, which include autism, eating disorders, schizophrenia and mood disorders are associated with foetal exposure to maternal stress or infection and malnutrition, reveal findings from a conference on Early Life Programming and Neurodevelopmental Disorders held at the University of Pennsylvania.
First author Dr Tracey Bale said: "The review (published in Biological Psychiatry) incorporated the latest insight gained from clinical and epidemiological studies with potential epigenetic mechanisms from basic research."
At the conference, the authors discussed findings where maternal stress has been associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia in male offspring and may alter foetal brain growth.
Data from the review also indicates that maternal stress, infection and malnutrition contribute to the risk of depression in adult life.
As the brain continues to develop in adolescence, exposure to child abuse and/or neglect must be taken into account, particularly as studies consistently show that for adults who experience maltreatment in childhood, the risk of developing mood disorders increases.
Although researchers recognise that multiple factors influence an individual's vulnerability to mental illness, understanding and defining these disease mechanisms could help identify therapy and prevention targets, known as "personalised prevention."
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