NEUROSCI 101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 17: Thrifty Phenotype, Binocular Vision, Birth Weight

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17 May 2016
Perinatal Programming (Sara Maurer)
Most critical periods for development (ex. Binocular vision, emotional control, language,
symbols) occur during first 1-3 years of life.
Perinatal programming - early experience can have a profound effect on developing organism →
different long-term outcomes for brain and behavior
Same Script, Different Productions
Difference in external stimuli alter the end product.
Types of Early Experience
Unexpected events - often pathological, some psychological, leads to dysfunctional
Ex. maternal exposure to SSRIs, maternal exposure to E. coli bacteria, parents
exposed to traumatic events while expecting (stress hormones prenatally)
Expected events - produce typical, well adapted phenotypes
Natural variations of experience - developmental plasticity leading to alternative adult
Ex. maternal diet, differences in maternal care approach
Barker hypothesis - Barker showed that low birth weight is a significant predictor of heart
disease (correlation)
“Thrifty phenotype” - each material possession that the mother consumes/uses (ie lotion,
perfumes, makeup) serves as a “postcard” cue for the fetus to observe the world
through vicariously
Dutch hunger winter Famine (1944):
Famine during pregnancy leads to later obesity. Babies get “postcards”
saying there’s not much food left, so when they’re born, they eat more.
Diabetes is also comorbid.
When these babies turned 19 (2 decades), no cognitive difficulties.
Later in life, these adult children show cognitive difficulties.
Children of pregnant mothers during the time of the famine
experienced lower birth weights as expected, but the
grandchildren of these mothers also displayed lower birth weight.
By this example, lower weight due to environmental influences
caused by famine is an example of epigenetic change passed
down by generation.
Choline - nutrient grouped w/ B-vitamins, necessary to form membranes and myelin, anti-
inflammatory, precursor to acetylcholine (essential NT), methyl donor
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