The Interplay Between Dopamine and Environment as the Biological Basis for the Early Origins of Mental Health

  • Barbara Barth
  • André K. Portella
  • Laurette Dubé
  • Michael J. Meaney
  • Patricia Pelufo SilveiraEmail author
Part of the Healthy Ageing and Longevity book series (HAL, volume 9)


A vast amount of evidence has shown that exposure to prenatal or early postnatal stress can impact the developing individual, increasing the susceptibility to several unfavorable outcomes later in life. It seems that these adversities induce adaptations, altering the metabolism to favor survival at critical periods, but at the expense of the individual’s health as a trade-off. These exposures increase the risk for non-transmittable diseases like type II diabetes, but also psychiatric conditions like ADHD or depression, and these common developmental risk factors suggest overlapping underlying mechanisms. In this chapter, we will explore the idea that the co-morbidity between conditions such as ADHD and metabolic dysregulation occurs, in part at least, because of the influence of metabolic neuroendocrine signals on mescorticolimbic dopamine neurons, especially in individuals exposed to early life adversity. These neurons regulate cognitive-emotional states, notably impulsivity, and reward-based decision-making, thus defining psychiatric phenotypes and contributing to intensify behaviors that in turn promote metabolic disturbances. We will also apply the concept of differential susceptibility, an evolution-informed theoretical framework, to the understanding of the role of dopaminergic pathways on the interplay between environmental adversity, altered metabolism and risk for disease across the life span.


Perinatal stress Dopamine neurons Mental health Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder Depression Metabolic dysregulation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Barth
    • 1
    • 2
  • André K. Portella
    • 3
  • Laurette Dubé
    • 3
  • Michael J. Meaney
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Patricia Pelufo Silveira
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Integrated Program in NeuroscienceMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Ludmer Center for Neuroinformatics and Mental HealthMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Desautels Faculty of ManagementMcGill Center for the Convergence of Health and Economics, McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  4. 4.Douglas Hospital Research Centre, 6875 Boulevard LaSalleMontrealCanada
  5. 5.Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)SingaporeSingapore

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