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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 3597209, 15 pages
Review Article

Neuroinflammation in Autism: Plausible Role of Maternal Inflammation, Dietary Omega 3, and Microbiota

1Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
2Nutrition et Neurobiologie Intégrée, UMR 1286, INRA, 33000 Bordeaux, France
3Nutrition et Neurobiologie Intégrée, UMR 1286, Bordeaux University, 33000 Bordeaux, France
4Inserm, U1141, Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris, France
5Université Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France
6Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
7Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, QC, Canada
8Département de Biologie, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Université de Lyon, UCB Lyon 1, Lyon, France
9OptiNutriBrain International Associated Laboratory (NutriNeuro France-INAF Canada), Bordeaux, France

Received 30 May 2016; Revised 24 August 2016; Accepted 27 September 2016

Academic Editor: Bruno Poucet

Copyright © 2016 Charlotte Madore et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Several genetic causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been identified. However, more recent work has highlighted that certain environmental exposures early in life may also account for some cases of autism. Environmental insults during pregnancy, such as infection or malnutrition, seem to dramatically impact brain development. Maternal viral or bacterial infections have been characterized as disruptors of brain shaping, even if their underlying mechanisms are not yet fully understood. Poor nutritional diversity, as well as nutrient deficiency, is strongly associated with neurodevelopmental disorders in children. For instance, imbalanced levels of essential fatty acids, and especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), are observed in patients with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia). Interestingly, PUFAs, and specifically n-3 PUFAs, are powerful immunomodulators that exert anti-inflammatory properties. These prenatal dietary and immunologic factors not only impact the fetal brain, but also affect the microbiota. Recent work suggests that the microbiota could be the missing link between environmental insults in prenatal life and future neurodevelopmental disorders. As both nutrition and inflammation can massively affect the microbiota, we discuss here how understanding the crosstalk between these three actors could provide a promising framework to better elucidate ASD etiology.