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Overview of the Role of Environmental Factors in Neurodevelopmental Disorders


Evidence implicates environmental factors in the pathogenesis of diverse complex neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the identity of specific environmental chemicals that confer risk for these disorders, and the mechanisms by which environmental chemicals interact with genetic susceptibilities to influence adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes remain significant gaps in our understanding of the etiology of most neurodevelopmental disorders. It is likely that many environmental chemicals contribute to the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders but their influence depends on the genetic substrate of the individual. Research into the pathophysiology and genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders may inform the identification of environmental susceptibility factors that promote adverse outcomes in brain development. Conversely, understanding how low-level chemical exposures influence molecular, cellular, and behavioral outcomes relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders will provide insight regarding gene-environment interactions and possibly yield novel intervention strategies.

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