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Maternal environmental exposures, such as high-fat diets, diabetes and obesity, can induce long-term effects in offspring. These effects include increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), depression and anxiety. The mechanisms underlying these late-life neurologic effects are unknown. In this article, we measured changes in the offspring brain and determined which brain regions are sensitive to maternal metabolic milieu and therefore may mediate NDD risk. We showed that mice exposed to a maternal high-fat diet display extensive brain changes in adulthood despite being switched to a low-fat diet at weaning. Brain regions impacted by early-life diet include the extended amygdalar system, which plays an important role in reward-seeking behaviour. Genes preferentially expressed in these regions have functions related to feeding behaviour, while also being implicated in human NDDs, such as autism. Our data demonstrated that exposure to maternal high-fat diet in early-life leads to brain alterations that persist into adulthood, even after dietary modifications.

Original publication




Journal article


Transl Psychiatry

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