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SignificancePrenatal exposure to maternal infection increases the risk of developing mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. Exposure to maternal immune activation has been associated with a number of neuroanatomical deficits in adolescent and adult offspring, with differing effects based on the gestational timing of infection. However, little is known about how the embryo brain is affected. We show, using whole-brain MRI, that maternal immune activation significantly affects brain anatomy. When the exposure occurs early in pregnancy, volume reductions are mainly observed, while the opposite is true for exposure later in pregnancy. Furthermore, we identify alterations to the density of certain classes of neurons and glia, which have been associated with stress and inflammation in the brain.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





brain development, electron microscopy, embryo brain development, maternal immune activation, structural MRI