Early life development, through gestation and lactation, represents a timeframe of extreme vulnerability for the developing fetus in general, and for the central nervous system in particular. An adverse perinatal environment can have a lasting negative impact on brain development, increasing the risk for developmental disorders and broader psychopathologies. A major determinant of the fetal developmental environment is maternal diet. The present review summarizes the current literature regarding the effect of poor maternal perinatal nutrition on offspring brain development, with an emphasis on reward-related neural systems and behaviors. Epigenetic mechanisms represent a likely link between maternal diet and persistent changes in offspring brain development, and these mechanisms are presented and discussed within the context of perinatal maternal nutrition.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
TMR received funding from the National Institutes of Health (MH087978, MH091372).