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Stress. 2014 Jan;17(1):13-21. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2013.796355. Epub 2013 May 28.

Sensitive periods in fear learning and memory.

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Department of Pharmacology and.


Adolescence represents a uniquely sensitive developmental stage in the transition from childhood to adulthood. During this transition, neuronal circuits are particularly susceptible to modification by experience. In addition, adolescence is a stage in which the incidence of anxiety disorders peaks in humans and over 75% of adults with fear-related disorders met diagnostic criteria as children and adolescents. While postnatal critical periods of plasticity for primary sensory processes, such as in the visual system are well established, less is known about potential critical or sensitive periods for fear learning and memory. Here, we review the non-linear developmental aspects of fear learning and memory during a transition period into and out of adolescence. We also review the literature on the non-linear development of GABAergic neurotransmission, a key regulator of critical period plasticity. We provide a model that may inform improved treatment strategies for children and adolescents with fear-related disorders.

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