STUDIES: How Pregnant Mothers React to Infection May Determine Development of Autism in Their Child

Studies show link between immune response and unusual neural pathways in mice.

The second study analyzed the developing brains of mice born to mothers who showed maternal immune activation. They traced abnormalities to a region called the dysgranular zone of the primary somato-sensory cortex (S1DZ). They then genetically engineered mice with neurons in this region activated by light. Activating the S1DZ brain region induced the same atypical behaviors, even in mice born to mothers with no MIA.

Demonstrating such a direct link between activities of brain regions and specific behaviors is highly unusual. However much of the work on mental disorders makes a strong theoretical case for linking particular conditions to overactive and underactive brain zones and neural pathways.

It’s tempting to attribute increased risk of autism in some people as resulting from prenatal infection response, based on these studies. But parents and doctors must maintain caution. Much changes when results from mice are translated to human biology. These studies do, however, offer some intriguing leads to potential causes and maybe even future prevention of Autism Spectrum Disorder in some instances.

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