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UC Davis Researchers Find How Viral Infection Disrupts Neural Development in Offspring, Increasing Risk of Autism

Activating a mother’s immune system during her pregnancy disrupts the development of neural cells in the brain of her offspring and damages the cells' ability to transmit signals and communicate with one another, researchers with the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Neurology have found. They said the finding suggests how maternal viral infection might increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia.

The research, “MHCI Requires MEF2 Transcription Factors to Negatively Regulate Synapse Density during Development and in Disease,” is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The study’s senior author is Kimberley McAllister, professor in the Center for Neuroscience with appointments in the departments of Neurology and Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, and a researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute.

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