Clinical investigators have always concentrated on early life as a source of adult psychopathology. However the concept of early life which is said to be a period of unique sensitivity during which various experiences leave a lasting impression has great importance.
Fetel background such as maternal stress or infection and malnutrition have been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders like mood disorders, schizophrenia, autism and eating disorders. Surprisingly, sex seems to be another factor that influences the risk for psychiatric disorders.
Experts have limited knowledge on how the maternal environment modifies offspring programming. Epigenetics could shed light on how environmental factors produce lasting changes in gene expression without altering DNA sequence, the former is an area of research. The findings are collected from a conference on Early Life Programming and Neurodevelopmental Disorders held at the University of Pennsylvania.
Experts examined if maternal stress was linked with an augmented risk of schizophrenia in male offspring and if it may change fetal brain growth. The data highlighted that maternal stress, infection and exposure to famine seemingly add to an increased risk for depression in offspring. The brain continues to develop into adolescence therefore exposure to child abuse or neglect should be examined accurately. Previous analysis revealed that adults who experience maltreatment as children are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders.
Scientists involved with the study share that various factors influence an individual’s disease risk. By applying the principals of personalized medication, one can view this science as personalized prevention as it aims to apply these principals earlier in the pathological process. Experts further reveal hat understanding these disease mechanisms at a early stage may highlight essential targets in therapy and prevention.
These findings were published in the Biological Psychiatry.