Adverse events in childhood and adolescence, such as social neglect or drug abuse, are known to lead to behavioral changes in young adulthood. This is particularly true for the subset of people who are intrinsically more vulnerable to stressful conditions. Yet the underlying mechanisms for such developmental trajectory from early life insult to aberrant adult behavior remains elusive. Adolescence is a period of dynamic physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes, encompassing a distinct neurodevelopmental stage called the 'critical period'. During adolescence, the brain is uniquely susceptible to stress. Stress mediators may lead to disturbances to biological processes that can cause permanent alterations in the adult stage, even as severe as the onset of mental illness when paired with genetic risk and environmental factors. Understanding the molecular factors governing the critical period and how stress can disturb the maturation processes will allow for better treatment and prevention of late adolescent/young adult onset psychiatric disorders.
Keywords: Adolescence; Adult behavior; Brain maturation; Critical period; Developmental trajectory.
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