Disturbed Growth in Early Life and Later Neurocognitive Development Associated with Psychiatric Disorders

  • Shiro Suda
  • Nori Takei


Accumulating evidence from neurobiological and epidemiological studies indicates that altered development caused by environmental factors in early life, especially the gestational period, may lead to the development of physical illnesses in adulthood such as type II diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. However, recent studies have suggested that altered growth associated with adverse events around the time of birth is a factor that contributes to cognitive dysfunction as well as psychiatric disorders in adulthood, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), mood disorders, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Environmental factors in early life, including placental dysfunction, maternal malnutrition during pregnancy, psychological distress in pregnant mothers, and infections during both the gestational and postnatal period, have been associated with alterations in gene expression regulated by epigenetic factors. These alterations have been proposed to trigger permanent changes in the programming of neural cells, whereby the processes of cell proliferation and migration, neuronal growth, synaptogenesis, and myelination would be grossly affected; as a result, individuals may be predisposed to various neurocognitive impairments that in turn can lead to specific neuropsychiatric disorders. In this chapter, we describe the association between growth disturbances in early life and subsequent neurocognitive development, and will focus in particular on early detrimental events, especially those involving nutritional factors, that can affect the development of the central nervous system (CNS) and be associated with the sequelae (i.e., psychiatric disorders) of such damage. Continued examination of the mechanisms underlying the associations between disturbed growth in early life and subsequent consequences in adulthood is expected to yield a better understanding of the pathophysiology of many neuropsychiatric disorders.


Fractional Anisotropy Mood Disorder Personality Disorder ADHD Symptom Pervasive Developmental Disorder 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Alzheimer’s disease


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder




α-linolenic acid


Autism Spectrum Disorder


Body mass index


Central nervous system


Catechol-O-methyl transferase


Docosahexanoic acid


Developmental origins of health and disease


Diffusion tensor imaging


Eicosapentaenoic acid


Fractional anisotropy


Intrauterine growth restriction


Intelligence quotient


Low birthweight


Magnetic resonance imaging


Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid

n-3 FA

Omega-3 family of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid




Score of neonatal acute physiology II


Single nucleotide polymorphism


Very low birthweight


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Child Mental Development and United Graduate School of Child DevelopmentHamamatsu University School of MedicineHigashi-ku Hamamatsu ShizuokaJapan
  2. 2.Division of Psychological MedicineInstitute of PsychiatryLondonUK

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