Maternal immune activation (MIA) in response to a viral infection during early and mid-gestation has been linked through various epidemiological studies to a higher risk for the child to develop autism or schizophrenia-related symptoms.. This has led to the establishment of the pathogen-free poly I:C-induced MIA animal model for neurodevelopmental disorders, which shows relatively high construct and face validity. Depending on the experimental variables, particularly the timing of poly I:C administration, different behavioural and molecular phenotypes have been described that relate to specific symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and/or schizophrenia. We here review and summarize epidemiological evidence for the effects of maternal infection and immune activation, as well as major findings in different poly I:C MIA models with a focus on poly I:C exposure timing, behavioural and molecular changes in the offspring, and characteristics of the model that relate it to autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia.
Keywords: Maternal immune activation; animal model; autism spectrum disorder; environmental impact on brain development; prenatal brain development; schizophrenia; viral infection during pregnancy.
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