Effects of early life stress on cognitive and affective function: an integrated review of human literature
- 9.8k Downloads
The investigation of putative effects of early life stress (ELS) in humans on later behavior and neurobiology is a fast developing field. While epidemiological and neurobiological studies paint a somber picture of negative outcomes, relatively little attention has been devoted to integrating the breadth of findings concerning possible cognitive and emotional deficits associated with ELS. Emerging findings from longitudinal studies examining developmental trajectories of the brain in healthy samples may provide a new framework to understand mechanisms underlying ELS sequelae.
The goal of this review was twofold. The first was to summarize findings from longitudinal data on normative brain development. The second was to utilize this framework of normative brain development to interpret changes in developmental trajectories associated with deficits in cognitive and affective function following ELS.
Five principles of normative brain development were identified and used to discuss behavioral and neural sequelae of ELS. Early adversity was found to be associated with deficits in a range of cognitive (cognitive performance, memory, and executive functioning) and affective (reward processing, processing of social and affective stimuli, and emotion regulation) functions.
Three general conclusions emerge: (1) higher-order, complex cognitive and affective functions associated with brain regions undergoing protracted postnatal development are particularly vulnerable to the deleterious effects of ELS; (2) the amygdala is particularly sensitive to early ELS; and (3) several deficits, particularly those in the affective domain, appear to persist years after ELS has ceased and may increase risk for later psychopathology.
KeywordsEarly life stress Brain Child abuse Cognitive function Emotion regulation
During the preparation of this paper, Pia Pechtel received research funding from the German Research Foundation [Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)]. DAP was supported by Award Numbers R01MH068376 and R21MH078979 from the National Institute of Mental Health and by a 2008 National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Independent Investigator Award. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institutes of Health, or NARSAD.
Dr. Pizzagalli has received research support from ANT North America Inc. (Advanced Neuro Technology (ANT)], consulting fees from ANT North America Inc. and AstraZeneca, and honoraria from AstraZeneca.
- Accident Compensation Corporation (2008) Sexual abuse and mental injury: practice guidelines for Aotearoa/New Zealand. ACC, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
- Anda R, Croft JB, Felitti V, Nordenberg D, Giles W, Wiliamson DF et al (1999) Adverse childhood experiences and smoking during adolescence and adulthood. JAMA 228:1652–1658Google Scholar
- Berridge KC (2007) The debate over dopamine’s role in reward: the case for incentive salience. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 191:391–431Google Scholar
- Bos KJ, Fox N, Zeanah CH, Nelson CA (2009) Effects of early psychosocial deprivation on the development of memory and executive function. Frontiers Behav Neurosci 3Google Scholar
- Cabib S, Puglisi-Allegra S (1996) Stress, depression and the mesolimbic dopamine system. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 128:331–342Google Scholar
- Cicchetti D, Curtis WJ (2005) An event-related potential study of the processing of affective facial expressions in young children who experienced maltreatment during the first year of life. Dev Psychopathol 17:641–677Google Scholar
- Colvert E, Rutter M, Kreppner J, Beckett C, Castle J, Groothues C et al (2008) Do theory of mind and executive function deficits underlie the adverse outcomes associated with profound early deprivation? Findings from the English and Romanian Adoptees Study. J Abnorm Child Psychol 36:1057–1068PubMedGoogle Scholar
- De Bellis MD, Hooper SR, Spratt EG, Woolley DP (2009) Neuropsychological findings in childhood neglect and their relationships to pediatric PTSD. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 15:868–878Google Scholar
- De Bellis MD, Hooper SR, Woolley DP, Shenk C (2010) Demographic, maltreatment, and neurobiological correlates of PTSD symptoms in children and adolescents. J Pediatr Psychol 35:570–577Google Scholar
- Finklehor D (1994) The international epidemiology of child sexual abuse. Child Abuse Negl 18:409–417Google Scholar
- Frodl T, Reinhold E, Koutsouleris N, Donohoe G, Bondy B, Reiser M et al (2010) Childhood stress, serotonin transporter gene and brain structures in major depression. Neuropsychopharmacology 22:2316–2325Google Scholar
- Gerber A, Peterson S (2009) Anatomical brain magnetic resonance imaging of typically developing children. Appl Brain Imaging 48:465–470Google Scholar
- Jackowski AP, Douglas-Palumberi H, Jackowski M, Win L, Schultz RT, Staib LW et al (2008) Corpus callosum in maltreated children with posttraumatic stress disorder: a diffusion tensor imaging study. Psychiatr Res Neuroimaging 162:256–261Google Scholar
- Johnson DE, Guthrie D, Smyke AT, Koga SF, Fox NA, Zeanah CH et al (2010) Growth and associations between auxology, caregiving environment, and cognition in socially deprived Romanian children randomized to foster vs gngoing institutional care. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010 Apr 5. [Epub ahead of print]Google Scholar
- Mehta M, Gore-Langton E, Golembo N, Colvert E, Williams S, Sonuga-Barke E (2010) Hyporesponsive reward anticipation in the basal ganglia following severe institutional deprivation early in life. J Cogn Neurosci 22:2316–2325Google Scholar
- Mueller SC, Maheu FS, Dozier M, Peloso E, Mandell D, Leibenluft E et al (2010). Early-life stress is associated with impairment in cognitive control in adolescence: an fMRI study. Neuropsychologia 48:3037–3044Google Scholar
- Parker SW, Nelson CA, Bucharest early intervention project core group (2005) An event-related potential study of the impact of institutional rearing on face recognition. Dev Psychopathol 17:621–639Google Scholar
- Payne J, Jackson E, Hoscheidt S, Ryan L, Jacobs W, Nadel L (2007) Stress administered prior to encoding impairs neutral but enhances emotional long-term episodic memories. Learn Mem 17:861–868Google Scholar
- Pizzagalli DA, Iosifescu D, Hallett LA, Ratner KG, Fava M (2009b) Reduced hedonic capacity in major depressive disorder: evidence from a probabilistic reward task. J Psychiatr Res 43:76–87Google Scholar
- Schoedl AF, Costa MC, Mari JJ, Mello MF, Tyrka AR, Carpenter LL et al (2010) The clinical correlates of reported childhood sexual abuse: an association between age at trauma onset and severity of depression and PTSD in adults. J Child Sex Abuse 19:156–170Google Scholar
- Tomoda A, Sheu YS, Rabi K, Suzuki H, Navalta CP, Polcari A et al (2010) Exposure to parental verbal abuse is associated with increased gray matter volume in superior temporal gyrus. NeuroImage 2010 July 15. [Epub ahead of print]Google Scholar
- Tottenham N, Sheridan MA (2010) A review of adversity, the amygdala and the hippocampus: a consideration of developmental timing. Front Hum Neurosci 8(3):68Google Scholar
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009) Administration on children, youth and families. Child maltreatment 2007. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Woon FL, Sood S, Hedges DW (2010) Hippocampal volume deficits associated with exposure to psychological trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder in adults: a meta-analysis. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 34:1181–1188Google Scholar