Developmental programming of early brain and behaviour development and mental health: a conceptual framework

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2011 Sep;53 Suppl 4:19-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2011.04057.x.


The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesis studies the short- and long-term consequences of the conditions of the developmental environment for phenotypic variations in health and disease. Central to this hypothesis is the idea of interdependence of developmental influences, genes, and environment. Developmental programming effects are mediated by alterations in fundamental life functions, and the most enduring effects seem to occur if the main regulatory instances of the organ - the (epi)genome and the brain - are affected. Some new insights in the role of chromatin, in cellular development and differentiation, and neural plasticity from the field of epigenetics are introduced, followed by a section on epigenetics and brain development. It is proposed to extend the DOHaD hypothesis into the 'Developmental Origins of Behaviour, Health, and Disease' (DOBHaD) concept. Pregnancy and the early postnatal period are times of both great opportunity and considerable risk, and their influence can extend over a lifetime. The DOBHaD hypothesis opens fundamental new perspectives on preventing diseases and disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology*