Maternal stressors and the developmental origins of neuropsychiatric risk

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5 Scopus citations


The maternal environment during pregnancy is critical for fetal development and perinatal perturbations can prime offspring disease risk. Here, we briefly review evidence linking two well-characterized maternal stressors – psychosocial stress and infection – to increased neuropsychiatric risk in offspring. In the current climate of increasing obesity and globalization of the Western-style diet, maternal overnutrition emerges as a pressing public health concern. We focus our attention on recent epidemiological and animal model evidence showing that, like psychosocial stress and infection, maternal overnutrition can also increase offspring neuropsychiatric risk. Using lessons learned from the psychosocial stress and infection literature, we discuss how altered maternal and placental physiology in the setting of overnutrition may contribute to abnormal fetal development and resulting neuropsychiatric outcomes. A better understanding of converging pathophysiological pathways shared between stressors may enable development of interventions against neuropsychiatric illnesses that may be beneficial across stressors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100834
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Allostatic load
  • Anxiety
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Depression
  • Developmental origins of health and disease
  • Inflammation
  • Maternal diet
  • Maternal immune activation
  • Maternal obesity
  • Maternal stress
  • Neuropsychiatric risk
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


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