Environment and early life: Decisive factors for stress-resilience and vulnerability

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2020;150:155-185. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2019.12.002. Epub 2020 Jan 27.


Early life is a critical and sensitive period whereby environmental imprints on later life are generated. These environmental influences from early life have long-lasting consequences on for mental health. Both human and animal work suggests that maternal presence constitutes an important part of the early experience. Maternal separation causes a sustained increase in stress responsiveness later in life, along with facilitated anxiety-like behaviors. On the contrary, providing a complex and enriching sensory environment during or after stress, on the other hand, creates resilience to stress. In this chapter, we summarize these environmental influences on the maternal interactions and subsequent stress susceptibility or resilience of the offspring.

Keywords: Anxiety; Environment; Motherhood; Resilience; Stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety*
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Deprivation*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Stress, Psychological*