Stress, glucocorticoids and liquorice in human pregnancy: programmers of the offspring brain

K. Raikkonen, J. R. Seckl, A. -K. Pesonen, A. Simons, B. R. H. Van den Bergh

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract

A suboptimal prenatal environment may induce permanent changes in cells, organs and physiology that alter social, emotional and cognitive functioning, and increase the risk of cardiometabolic and mental disorders in subsequent life ("developmental programming"). Although animal studies have provided a wealth of data on programming and its mechanisms, including on the role of stress and its glucocorticoid mediators, empirical evidence of these mechanisms in humans is still scanty. We review the existing human evidence on the effects of prenatal maternal stress, anxiety and depression, glucocorticoids and intake of liquorice (which inhibits the placental barrier to maternal glucocorticoids) on offspring developmental outcomes including, for instance, alterations in psychophysiological and neurocognitive functioning and mental health. This work lays the foundations for biomarker discovery and affords opportunities for prevention and interventions to ameliorate adverse outcomes in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-603
Number of pages14
JournalStress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

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