Fetal Programming and Fetal Psychology

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Fetal Programming and Fetal Psychology

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Title: Fetal Programming and Fetal Psychology
Author: Ellison, Peter T.
Citation: Ellison, Peter T. 2010. Fetal programming and fetal psychology. Infant and Child Development 19(1): 6-20.
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Abstract: The introduction of the ‘fetal programming hypothesis’, first in epidemiology, subsequently in a broad range of disciplines concerned with developmental biology, has generated new interest in phenotypic plasticity, the mechanisms that govern it, and its place in evolutionary biology. A number of epidemiological studies link small size at birth, assumed to be a consequence of constrained prenatal energy availability, with adverse effects on the risk of chronic diseases later in life. The cluster of chronic diseases associated with the metabolic syndrome and alterations of glucose metabolism are particularly implicated. Recent evidence suggests that epigenetic modification of gene expression affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis may be involved in these effects. In animal studies epigenetic alteration of HPA axis activity and responsiveness is associated with changes in adult behaviour and stress responsiveness. The potential for similar effects to contribute to psychological and psychiatric outcomes in humans has been explored in a number of contexts, including famine exposure, observed covariance with birth weight, and prenatal dexamethasone treatment of fetuses at risk of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. While fetal programming effects have now been widely demonstrated across species and human populations, the adaptive significance of these effects is still a matter of debate.
Published Version: doi:10.1002/icd.649
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#OAP
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:4796908
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