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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Dec;1094:178-92.

Arousal regulation, emotional flexibility, medial amygdala function, and the impact of early experience: comments on the paper of Lewis et al.

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  • 1Yale University, Child Study Center, 230 South Frontage Rd., New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


The balance between optimal levels of emotional arousal and cognitive performance reflects the integration of several dopaminergically and adrenergically regulated neural systems. The amygdalar system is a key region for gating stimulation to cortical regions and the medial amygdala appears to play an especially key role in mediating the fear response. More generally, these arousal regulatory neural systems are key to frustration or stress impact prefrontal cortical function. Further, the threshold for when the level of stress is overwhelming and hence impairs cognitive function reflects minimally genetic and experiential influence. An important interface between Drs. Lewis and Davis's work is how early experience, especially through early parenting, may set the threshold of responsiveness for these arousal regulatory neural systems.

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