Keynote: How the Perinatal Environment Shapes our Brain and Behavior
Extensive studies in laboratories world-wide show that the health we enjoy through life is determined not just by our genes, but equally by gene/environment interactions. This interaction is at the heart of the nature/nurture controversy. We pass more biological milestones before we are born and in the early months of life than at any other time of our life. Cells throughout the body are very plastic and vulnerable at these developmental stages. The organization of the fetal brain is a complex and intricate process: cells divide, differentiate, and move to locations where they interact with other cells. Poor maternal nutrition, both under-and-over-nutrition, environmental stress, drugs, and environmental toxins can alter the trajectory of development in key areas of the brain with long lasting consequences. This address will explore how intrauterine and neonatal environments can determine the level of our anxiety states, our cognitive behavior and other brain functions for a life-time.