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Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2018;38:117-136. doi: 10.1007/7854_2016_42.

Neurobiological Programming of Early Life Stress: Functional Development of Amygdala-Prefrontal Circuitry and Vulnerability for Stress-Related Psychopathology.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 406 Schermerhorn Hall, 1990 Amsterdam Ave, MC 5501, New York, NY, 10027, USA. mrv2115@columbia.edu.
2
Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 406 Schermerhorn Hall, 1990 Amsterdam Ave, MC 5501, New York, NY, 10027, USA.

Abstract

Early adverse experiences are associated with heighted vulnerability for stress-related psychopathology across the lifespan. While extensive work has investigated the effects of early adversity on neurobiology in adulthood, developmental approaches can provide further insight on the neurobiological mechanisms that link early experiences and long-term mental health outcomes. In the current review, we discuss the role of emotion regulation circuitry implicated in stress-related psychopathology from a developmental and transdiagnostic perspective. We highlight converging evidence suggesting that multiple forms of early adverse experiences impact the functional development of amygdala-prefrontal circuitry. Next, we discuss how adversity-induced alterations in amygdala-prefrontal development are associated with symptoms of emotion dysregulation and psychopathology. Additionally, we discuss potential mechanisms through which protective factors may buffer the effects of early adversity on amygdala-prefrontal development to confer more adaptive long-term outcomes. Finally, we consider limitations of the existing literature and make suggestions for future longitudinal and translational research that can better elucidate the mechanisms linking early adversity, neurobiology, and emotional phenotypes. Together, these findings may provide further insight into the neuro-developmental mechanisms underlying the emergence of adversity-related emotional disorders and facilitate the development of targeted interventions that can ameliorate risk for psychopathology in youth exposed to early life stress.

KEYWORDS:

Amygdala; Child/adolescent development; Early life stress; Prefrontal cortex; Psychopathology

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