Developmental Neurobiology of Childhood Stress and Trauma

Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2002 Jun;25(2):397-426, vii-viii. doi: 10.1016/s0193-953x(01)00003-x.

Abstract

Severe early stress and maltreatment produces a cascade of events that have the potential to alter brain development. The first stage of the cascade involves the stress-induced programming of the glucocorticoid, noradrenergic, and vasopressin-oxytocin stress response systems to augment stress responses. These neurohumors then produce effects on neurogenesis, synaptic overproduction and pruning, and myelination during specific sensitive periods. Major consequences include reduced size of the mid-portions of the corpus callosum; attenuated development of the left neocortex, hippocampus, and amygdala along with abnormal frontotemporal electrical activity; and reduced functional activity of the cerebellar vermis. These alterations, in turn, provide the neurobiological framework through which early abuse increases the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and substance abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Development*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Life Change Events
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / metabolism*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism

Substances

  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Hydrocortisone