, Volume 214, Issue 1, pp 121–130 | Cite as

Early-life stress and cognitive outcome

  • Dawson W. Hedges
  • Fu Lye Woon



Early-life stress is associated with later neuropsychiatric illness. While the association between early-life stress and brain development is well recognized, relatively few studies have examined the association between exposure to early-life stress and cognitive outcome.


The objective of this paper is to examine the association between early-life stress and cognitive outcome in animal models and humans.


In this article, we review alterations in cognitive function associated with early-life stress in animals and then discuss the association of early-life stress and cognitive function in humans.


Findings suggest that early-life stress is associated with abnormal cognitive function in animals and humans. Furthermore, cognitive deficits associated with exposure to early-life stress in humans may persist into at least early adulthood, although animal models of enriched environments and studies of children adopted from institutionalized care into foster families suggest that certain social factors may at least partially reverse cognitive deficits following exposure to early-life stress.


Exposure to stress in early life may be associated with later deficits in cognitive function.


Early-life stress Cognition Cognitive function Memory Childhood abuse Neglect Posttraumatic-stress disorder Hippocampus Neuropsychology 


Conflicts of interest



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© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.1001 SWKT, Department of PsychologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.The Neuroscience CenterBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  3. 3.Neuropsychology Section, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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