Maternal Immune Activation during Pregnancy Alters Postnatal Brain Growth and Cognitive Development in Nonhuman Primate Offspring

Roza M. Vlasova, Ana-Maria Iosif, Amy M. Ryan, Lucy H. Funk, Takeshi Murai, Shuai Chen, Tyler A. Lesh, Douglas J. Rowland, Jeffrey Bennett, Casey E. Hogrefe, Richard J. Maddock, Michael J. Gandal, Daniel H. Geschwind, Cynthia M. Schumann, Judy Van de Water, A. Kimberley McAllister, Cameron S Carter, Martin A. Styner, David G. Amaral, Melissa D. Bauman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human epidemiological studies implicate exposure to infection during gestation in the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. Animal models of maternal immune activation (MIA) have identified the maternal immune response as the critical link between maternal infection and aberrant offspring brain and behavior development. Here we evaluate neurodevelopment of male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) born to MIA-treated dams (n = 14) injected with a modified form of the viral mimic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid at the end of the first trimester. Control dams received saline injections at the same gestational time points (n = 10) or were untreated (n = 4). MIA-treated dams exhibited a strong immune response as indexed by transient increases in sickness behavior, temperature, and inflammatory cytokines. Although offspring born to control or MIA-treated dams did not differ on measures of physical growth and early developmental milestones, the MIA-treated animals exhibited subtle changes in cognitive development and deviated from species-typical brain growth trajectories. Longitudinal MRI revealed significant gray matter volume reductions in the prefrontal and frontal cortices of MIA-treated offspring at 6months that persisted through the final time point at 45months along with smaller frontal white matter volumes in MIA-treated animals at 36 and 45 months. These findings provide the first evidence of early postnatal changes in brain development in MIA-exposed nonhuman primates and establish a translationally relevant model system to explore the neurodevelopmental trajectory of risk associated with prenatal immune challenge from birth through late adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9971-9987
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Animal model
  • Autism
  • MRI
  • Neuroimmunology
  • Rhesus monkey
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Maternal Immune Activation during Pregnancy Alters Postnatal Brain Growth and Cognitive Development in Nonhuman Primate Offspring'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this