Postnatal testosterone may be an important mediator of the association between prematurity and male neurodevelopmental disorders: A hypothesis

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Abstract

Children born premature are at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. This piece advances the hypothesis that altered androgen exposure observed in premature infants is an important mediator of the neurodevelopmental risk in males associated with prematurity. Specifically, the alterations of normative physiologic postnatal activations of the hypothalamic- pituitary-gonadal axis that occur in preterm males are hypothesized to contribute to the risk of neuropsychiatric pathology of prematurity through altered androgen-mediated organizational effects on the developing brain. The physiology of testosterone and male central nervous system development in full-term births is reviewed and compared to the developmental processes of prematurity. The effects of the altered testosterone physiology observed within prematurity outside of the central nervous system are reviewed as a segue into a discussion of the effects within the nervous system, with a special focus on autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The explanatory power of this model is reviewed as a supplement to the preexisting models of prematurity and neurodevelopmental risk, including infection and other perinatal central nervous system insults. The emphasis is placed on altered androgen exposure as serving as just one among many mediators of neurodevelopmental risk that may be of interest for further research and evidence-based investigation. Implications for diagnosis, management and preventative treatments conclude the piece.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150047
JournalInternational Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2017

Keywords

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Developmental disorders
  • Men's mental health
  • Prematurity
  • Testosterone

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