Call for Papers - Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease will be publishing a special issue on Prenatal Origins of Adult Mental Health and Illness. Find out how to submit your research here....

Manuscript submission deadline extended to: 1 December 2015Picture1

Publication of themed issue: All papers will appear online, in FirstView, once the peer review and production process is complete. The issue will be published online in 2016.

Prenatal origins of adult health and disease is a provocative hypothesis that suggests that developmental programming of the fetus’ organs and physiological systems occurs in the intrauterine environment and has lasting effects for better and for worse in adult life. Much of the evidence for this hypothesis has been derived from population-based epidemiological and nonhuman animal studies and has largely been focused, although not exclusively, on metabolic health and illness in adulthood.

However, we know however relatively little in terms of whether this hypothesis applies to adult mental health and illness. The purpose of the proposed Themed Issue is to provide the research community with a series of review and empirical papers on the emergent study of prenatal programming of adult mental health and illness in one issue.

The extant literature suggests that at least two models have been used as proxies of a suboptimal intrauterine environment to examine the prenatal programming hypotheses of psychopathology in humans. One model is low birth weight and intrauterine growth restriction. Due to advances in fetal and neonatal medicine in the 1970’s, the survival rates of babies born extremely premature have increased, while neurosensory impairments among survivors have decreased. Accordingly, the first generation of babies born extremely premature in the early modern era of neonatal intensive care have reached adulthood. These adult survivors of prematurity, now in their third and fourth decades of life, provide “natural experiments” and new and unique opportunities to investigate how early pre and post natal adversity shape brain-behavior relations over the lifespan. Prematurity reflects a highly comprised intrauterine environment and is associated with increased stress vulnerability and negative outcomes across a variety of adaptive functioning domains during post-natal development and into adulthood.

A second model is the influence of prenatal exposures to maternal stress and anxiety, drug use and abuse, toxins, steroids, adverse sociodemographic factors on prenatal development and how this impacts individual differences in developmental plasticity postnatally in offspring (which may or may not be confounded with prematurity) Individuals in longitudinal cohorts of relevant studies are now transiting to adulthood and the long-term effects of maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy can be examined in adult offspring.


The Themed Issue will focus on the prenatal origins of adult mental health and illness. The proposed issue will include 2 review papers and 6 empirical papers. We will solicit papers on different exposures that define suboptimal environments, including, but not limited to survivors of prematurity including low birth weight, intrauterine growth problems, small for gestation age, maternal exposure to adverse sociodemographic factors, stress and anxiety, toxins, drugs, and viruses during pregnancy, and exposure to pre and post natal steroids that are and are not confounded with prematurity. Our outcomes measures will also be broadly defined in terms of psychiatric impairments, including mood, anxiety, psychotic disorders, antisocial problems, substance use and abuse, as well as studies illustrative of resiliency and emotional well-being. We are particularly interested in soliciting papers which include behavioral and physiological indices of stress vulnerability and psychiatric impairment in addition to subjective and clinical interviews.



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