The Influence of Maternal Metabolic State and Nutrition on Offspring Neurobehavioral Development: A Focus on Preclinical Models

A. J. Mitchell, Geoffrey A. Dunn, Elinor L. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The prevalence of both obesity and neurodevelopmental disorders has increased substantially over the last several decades. Early environmental factors, including maternal nutrition and metabolic state during gestation, influence offspring neurodevelopment. Both human and preclinical models demonstrate a link between poor maternal nutrition, altered metabolic state, and risk of behavioral abnormalities in offspring. This review aims to highlight evidence from the current literature connecting maternal nutrition and the associated metabolic changes with neural and behavioral outcomes in the offspring, as well as identify possible mechanisms underlying these neurodevelopmental outcomes. Owing to the highly correlated nature of poor nutrition and obesity in humans, preclinical animal models are important in distinguishing the unique effects of maternal nutrition and metabolic state on offspring brain development. We use a translational lens to highlight results from preclinical animal models of maternal obesogenic diet related to alterations in behavioral and neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring. Specifically, we aim to highlight results that resemble behavioral phenotypes described in the diagnostic criteria of neurodevelopmental conditions in humans. Finally, we examine the proinflammatory nature of maternal obesity and consumption of a high-fat diet as a mechanism for neurodevelopmental alterations that may alter offspring behavior later in life. It is important that future studies examine potential therapeutic interventions and prevention strategies to interrupt the transgenerational transmission of the disease. Given the tremendous risk to the next generation, changes need to be made to ensure that all pregnant people have access to nutritious food and are informed about the optimal diet for their developing child.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-460
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Animal models
  • Maternal obesity
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Nutrition
  • Western-style diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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