Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 145–157 | Cite as

Environmental Mechanisms of Neurodevelopmental Toxicity

  • Kylie D. Rock
  • Heather B. Patisaul
Mechanisms of Toxicity (CJ Mattingly and A Planchart, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Mechanisms of Toxicity


Purpose of Review

With the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders on the rise, it is imperative to identify and understand the mechanisms by which environmental contaminants can impact the developing brain and heighten risk. Here, we report on recent findings regarding novel mechanisms of developmental neurotoxicity and highlight chemicals of concern, beyond traditionally defined neurotoxicants.

Recent Findings

The perinatal window represents a critical and extremely vulnerable period of time during which chemical insult can alter the morphological and functional trajectory of the developing brain. Numerous chemical classes have been associated with alterations in neurodevelopment including metals, solvents, pesticides, and, more recently, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Although mechanisms of neurotoxicity have traditionally been identified as pathways leading to neuronal cell death, neuropathology, or severe neural injury, recent research highlights alternative mechanisms that result in more subtle but consequential changes in the brain and behavior. These emerging areas of interest include neuroendocrine and immune disruption, as well as indirect toxicity via actions on other organs such as the gut and placenta.


Understanding of the myriad ways in which the developing brain is vulnerable to chemical exposures has grown tremendously over the past decade. Further progress and implementation in risk assessment is critical to reducing risk of neurodevelopmental disorders.


Neurodevelopment Neurotoxicity Xenobiotic Neuroendocrine Neuroimmune 


Funding Information

This work was supported by R56 NIEHS R56ES022957 to H.B.P., NIEHS P30ES025128 to NCSU, and NIEHS T32ES021432 to NCSU.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Kylie D. Rock and Heather B. Patisaul declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Center for Human Health and the EnvironmentNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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