Defects in the development of the brain have a profound impact on mature brain functions and underlying psychopathology. Classical neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, glutamate and GABA, have pleiotropic effects during brain development. In other words, these molecules produce multiple diverse effects to serve as regulators of distinct cellular functions at different times in neurodevelopment. These systems are impacted upon by abuse of a variety of illicit drugs, neurotherapeutics and environmental contaminants. In this review, we describe the impact of drugs and chemicals on brain formation and function in animal models and in human populations, highlighting sensitive periods and effects that may not emerge until later in life.
2009 S. Karger AG, Basel.