Long-term effects of childhood abuse on brain and neurobiology

Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2003 Apr;12(2):271-92. doi: 10.1016/s1056-4993(02)00098-6.


Early stress is associated with long-term alterations in brain circuits and systems that mediate the stress response. Early stressors have lasting effects on the HPA axis and norepinephrine systems. Other brain systems that are involved include benzodiazepine, opiate, dopaminergic, and various neuropeptide systems. These neurochemical systems modulate function in brain regions, including the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. Long-term alterations in these brain regions are hypothesized to play a role in the maintenance of PTSD, depression, and other psychiatric symptoms after childhood abuse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology


  • Neuropeptides