Review Article | Published:

Maternal immune activation: reporting guidelines to improve the rigor, reproducibility, and transparency of the model

Neuropsychopharmacologyvolume 44pages245258 (2019) | Download Citation


The 2017 American College of Neuropychopharmacology (ACNP) conference hosted a Study Group on 4 December 2017, Establishing best practice guidelines to improve the rigor, reproducibility, and transparency of the maternal immune activation (MIA) animal model of neurodevelopmental abnormalities. The goals of this session were to (a) evaluate the current literature and establish a consensus on best practices to be implemented in MIA studies, (b) identify remaining research gaps warranting additional data collection and lend to the development of evidence-based best practice design, and (c) inform the MIA research community of these findings. During this session, there was a detailed discussion on the importance of validating immunogen doses and standardizing the general design (e.g., species, immunogenic compound used, housing) of our MIA models both within and across laboratories. The consensus of the study group was that data does not currently exist to support specific evidence-based model selection or methodological recommendations due to lack of consistency in reporting, and that this issue extends to other inflammatory models of neurodevelopmental abnormalities. This launched a call to establish a reporting checklist focusing on validation, implementation, and transparency modeled on the ARRIVE Guidelines and CONSORT (scientific reporting guidelines for animal and clinical research, respectively). Here we provide a summary of the discussions in addition to a suggested checklist of reporting guidelines needed to improve the rigor and reproducibility of this valuable translational model, which can be adapted and applied to other animal models as well.

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The authors would like to thank the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) for hosting our Study Group “Establishing best practice guidelines to improve the rigor, reproducibility, and transparency of the maternal immune activation (MIA) animal model of neurodevelopmental abnormalities”, which was the inspiration for this paper. We would also like to thank Ms. Allison Lau for her assistance in formatting the manuscript. The authors acknowledge financial support from CDMRP grant W81XWH-16-1-0721 (to BDP). EYH receives support from Klingenstein-Simons Foundation Fellowship in Neuroscience, Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering. UM receives financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant No. 310030_169544), the Foundation for Research in Science and the Humanities at the University of Zurich, and Boehringer-Ingelheim. MDB is supported by the UC Davis Conte Center (NIMH; P50MH106438), the UC Davis Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (NICHD; U54HD079125). ACK receives financial support from NIMH under Award Number R15MH114035. AKM is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R01-NS060125-05), the National Institute of Mental Health (P50-MH106438-01), and the Simons Foundation (SFARI no. 321998). SDB receives support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) R01 ES025549. ASB is supported by NIEHS 1R01ES028125 and R01 ES019004-04. MVP receives support from DA-041208, the Conte Center grant MH-094268, MH-083728, and The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and the Stanley Medical Research Institute. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of any of the financial supporters.

Author contributions

The 2017 ACNP study group was organized by ACK, BDP, and MVP based on the inspiration of a previous ACNP meeting, where AKM presented data highlighting the need for increased variable transparency in the reporting of MIA data. All authors participated in the 2018 study group at ACNP and contributed to writing sections of the paper. ACK and MDB drafted the checklist and all other authors edited. Figures were made by ACK, UM, and MDB. All middle authors are listed in alphabetical order.

Author information


  1. School of Arts & Sciences, Health Psychology Program, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston, MA, USA

    • Amanda C. Kentner
  2. Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

    • Staci D. Bilbo
  3. Lurie Center for Autism, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston, MA, USA

    • Staci D. Bilbo
  4. Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

    • Alan S. Brown
  5. New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY, USA

    • Alan S. Brown
  6. Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

    • Elaine Y. Hsiao
  7. Center for Neuroscience, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, USA

    • A. Kimberley McAllister
  8. Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich-Vetsuisse, Winterthurerstrasse, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Urs Meyer
  9. Neuroscience Centre Zurich, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

    • Urs Meyer
  10. Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, and Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience Program, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

    • Brad D. Pearce
  11. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

    • Mikhail V. Pletnikov
  12. Department of Pediatrics, Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

    • Robert H. Yolken
  13. The UC Davis MIND Institute, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, California National Primate Research Center, University of California, Davis, USA

    • Melissa D. Bauman


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Amanda C. Kentner or Melissa D. Bauman.

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