Newly identified pathway links fetal brain development to adult social behavior

Fetal development has been known to play an important role in social interaction, a fundamental behavior found in nearly all organisms, and later adult social behaviors. Autism, a highly heritable neurodevelopment disorder that causes difficulties with social interactions, has been postulated to be caused by neuron overgrowth in the prenatal period, although the precise timing and cause of this overgrowth has been unknown. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine and other institutions have recently uncovered abnormalities in embryonic brain development in mice, including transient embryonic brain enlargement during neuron formation, that are responsible for abnormal adult brain structures and behavioral abnormalities. These findings demonstrate a fetal origin for social and repetitive behavior deficits, as seen in disorders such as autism.

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