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Neurodevelopmental disorders 

Neurodevelopmental disorders
Chapter:
Neurodevelopmental disorders
Author(s):

Janet Eyre

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198569381.003.0189
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date: 20 October 2018

Remarkable advances in the neurosciences, particularly in the fields of genetics, molecular biology, metabolism, and nutrition, have greatly advanced our understanding of how the brain develops and responds to environmental influences. Neurodevelopmental disorders arise from perturbation of these normal developmental processes, by insults from heterogeneous aetiological factors. These factors trigger a sequence of molecular, biochemical, and morphological alterations of the brain, resulting in a morphologically and/ or functionally abnormal brain. Rapidly advancing understanding of basic neurodevelopmental processes has direct relevance to understanding human neurodevelopmental disorders, providing insights into pathogenic mechanisms and revealing new pathways that can be exploited in diagnosis and treatment. Conversely the identification of the molecular bases of several neurodevelopmental disorders has also provided invaluable insights into the mechanisms of normal brain development. Technical advances have also improved methods for identifying brain regions involved in developmental disorders, for tracing connections between parts of the brain, for visualizing individual neurons in living brain preparations, for recording the activities of neurons, and for studying the activity of single-ion channels and the receptors for various neurotransmitters. During the past 10 years the genetic basis of an ever increasing number of neurodevelopmental disorders has been discovered and has led to better understanding of the neurobiological basis of even common disorders such as global developmental delay, cerebral palsy, and autism. Current research should reveal their underlying molecular biology and eventually the possibility of targeted chemotherapy and the prevention of many neurodevelopmental disorders.

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