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TitleMaternal hormonal milieu influence on fetal brain development
Author(s)Miranda, Alexandra Sofia Lopes
Sousa, Nuno
Keywordsfetal neurodevelopment
fetal programming
maternal hormones
sex steroids
thyroid hormones
Issue date2018
JournalBrain and Behavior
Abstract(s)An adverse maternal hormonal environment during pregnancy can be associated with abnormal brain growth. Subtle changes in fetal brain development have been observed even for maternal hormone levels within the currently accepted physiologic ranges. In this review, we provide an update of the research data on maternal hormonal impact on fetal neurodevelopment, giving particular emphasis to thyroid hormones and glucocorticoids. Thyroid hormones are required for normal brain development. Despite serum TSH appearing to be the most accurate indicator of thyroid function in pregnancy, maternal serum free T4 levels in the first trimester of pregnancy are the major determinant of postnatal psychomotor development. Even a transient period of maternal hypothyroxinemia at the beginning of neurogenesis can confer a higher risk of expressive language and nonverbal cognitive delays in offspring. Nevertheless, most recent clinical guidelines advocate for targeted high-risk case finding during first trimester of pregnancy despite universal thyroid function screening. Corticosteroids are determinant in suppressing cell proliferation and stimulating terminal differentiation, a fundamental switch for the maturation of fetal organs. Not surprisingly, intrauterine exposure to stress or high levels of glucocorticoids, endogenous or synthetic, has a molecular and structural impact on brain development and appears to impair cognition and increase anxiety and reactivity to stress. Limbic regions, such as hippocampus and amygdala, are particularly sensitive. Repeated doses of prenatal corticosteroids seem to have short-term benefits of less respiratory distress and fewer serious health problems in offspring. Nevertheless, neurodevelopmental growth in later childhood and adulthood needs further clarification. Future studies should address the relevance of monitoring the level of thyroid hormones and corticosteroids during pregnancy in the risk stratification for impaired postnatal neurodevelopment.
AccessOpen access
Appears in Collections:ICVS - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais com Referee

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