The developing brain is sensitive to a variety of insults. Epidemiological studies have identified prenatal exposure to infection as a risk factor for a range of neurological disorders, including autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. Animal models corroborate this association and have been used to probe the contribution of gene-environment interactions to the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. Here we review the behavior and brain phenotypes that have been characterized in MIA offspring, including the studies that have looked at the interaction between maternal immune activation and genetic risk factors for autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia. These phenotypes include behaviors relevant to autism, schizophrenia, and other neurological disorders, alterations in brain anatomy, and structural and functional neuronal impairments. The link between maternal infection and these phenotypic changes is not fully understood, but there is increasing evidence that maternal immune activation induces prolonged immune alterations in the offspring's brain which could underlie epigenetic alterations which in turn may mediate the behavior and brain changes. These concepts will be discussed followed by a summary of the pharmacological interventions that have been tested in the maternal immune activation model.
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