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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2017 Jun;25:145-159. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2017.02.002. Epub 2017 Feb 16.

Early life adversity during the infant sensitive period for attachment: Programming of behavioral neurobiology of threat processing and social behavior.

Author information

1
Emotional Brain Institute, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY, USA; Child Study Center, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA. Electronic address: Maya.opendak@nyumc.org.
2
Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.
3
Emotional Brain Institute, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY, USA; Child Study Center, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA.

Abstract

Animals, including humans, require a highly coordinated and flexible system of social behavior and threat evaluation. However, trauma can disrupt this system, with the amygdala implicated as a mediator of these impairments in behavior. Recent evidence has further highlighted the context of infant trauma as a critical variable in determining its immediate and enduring consequences, with trauma experienced from an attachment figure, such as occurs in cases of caregiver-child maltreatment, as particularly detrimental. This review focuses on the unique role of caregiver presence during early-life trauma in programming deficits in social behavior and threat processing. Using data primarily from rodent models, we describe the interaction between trauma and attachment during a sensitive period in early life, which highlights the role of the caregiver's presence in engagement of attachment brain circuitry and suppressing threat processing by the amygdala. These data suggest that trauma experienced directly from an abusive caregiver and trauma experienced in the presence of caregiver cues produce similar neurobehavioral deficits, which are unique from those resulting from trauma alone. We go on to integrate this information into social experience throughout the lifespan, including consequences for complex scenarios, such as dominance hierarchy formation and maintenance.

KEYWORDS:

Amygdala; Development; Dominance hierarchy; Social behavior; Threat

PMID:
28254197
PMCID:
PMC5478471
DOI:
10.1016/j.dcn.2017.02.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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