Allergies, Asthma, and the Brain

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Over the past three decades, we have seen parallel increases in the incidence of both allergic asthma and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), raising the question of whether these two conditions are associated. Population-based studies have revealed a link between allergy-associated immune activation during pregnancy and increased risk of having a child later diagnosed with a neurodevelopment disorder. However, these studies only show correlation, not causation.  With all of this in mind, our lab explores maternal allergic asthma (MAA) as a potentially under-examined environmental factor influencing brain and behavior development.

Our lab has developed a model to test the causal link between maternal allergic asthma and offspring brain and behavior development.Using this model, we apply a range of behavioral tasks designed to measure discrete components of social behavior in order to define critical periods during gestation when maternal allergic asthma disrupts neurobehavioral processes.  We then evaluate the role that asthma-related cytokines play in disrupting offspring development.