Research on the effects of early life adversity on the brain
Summary: Childhood adversity can have a lifelong impact on mental health and behavior. Adults who experienced adversity in childhood are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Using state-of-the-art molecular techniques in rodent models, researchers are dissecting the neurobiological mechanisms affected by early life adversity.
The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2022, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of new news about brain science and health.
Childhood adversity, such as abuse, neglect, poverty, homelessness, or the loss of a parent, can have lifelong effects on the brain and behavior. Evidence suggests that early life adversity plays an important role in shaping brain development and is associated with abnormalities in several neurobiological systems.
Adults with more negative early childhood experiences are more likely to have health problems including depression and anxiety; in fact, childhood adversity has been estimated to account for 28% of the risk of later-onset psychiatric disorders.
With advances in molecular techniques, neuroscientists are using rodent studies to understand the brain cells and circuitry underlying the links between early life adversity, brain development, and later psychiatric disorders.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Gender differences in anxiety disorders may be mediated by changes in the neuropeptide corticotrophin-releasing factor, which is released in response to stress. (Camila Demaestri, New York State Psychiatric Institute)
- A novel connection between a brain area associated with reward and another brain area associated with stress responses may mediate the effects of early life adversity on motivated behavior. (Tallie Z. Baram, University of California, Irvine)
- Stress during puberty leads to increased sensitivity to limited resources during pregnancy, and the combination of stress has a negative impact on maternal behavior and offspring health outcomes (Kathleen E. Morrison, West Virginia University)
- Ketamine has sex-specific effects on behavioral responses to emotional vocalizations in early-life distressed rats (Jennifer A. Honeycutt, Bowdoin College)
“Early life adversity is known from epidemiological and clinical work to be a major risk factor for psychiatric disorders, and neuroscientists are now discovering why this is at the level of specific neural circuits,” says Mar Sanchez, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine. of medicine who studies the effects of the early environment on the development of neural circuits that control stress physiology and emotion regulation.
“Importantly for relevance to humans, the research presented today also focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms that lead to sex-specific effects of early life adversity.”
About these childhood adversities and psychological research news
Original Research: The findings will be presented at Neuroscience 2022
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