Early life stress (ELS) is a significant risk factor for the development of a range of psychiatric symptoms that cut across a number of diagnostic categories. The mechanisms through which ELS confers this heightened vulnerability, however, are poorly understood. Given that there are several million referrals involving alleged child maltreatment in the US each year, it is critical that investigators focus on elucidating the neurodevelopmental consequences of ELS and the mechanisms by which ELS-related changes in neurobiological function confer vulnerability for psychopathology. Importantly, epidemiological studies have documented that the transition to puberty is a critical period for the expression of the effects of ELS;moreover, beginning at puberty, there is a higher incidence of symptoms of emotional disorders in females than in males who were abused as young children, suggesting that these outcomes are moderated by gender. Therefore, in efforts to elucidate the effects of ELS on neurobiological systems and on vulnerability for psychopathology, it is vital that researchers consider the impact of both puberty and gender. The proposed project is designed to address these issues, examining the influence of ELS on the maturation of neural circuits and neuroendocrine and cognitive processes that are critical to psychological health, and that are integral to specific RDoC constructs of the Negative Valence, Positive Valence, and Arousal/Regulatory Systems. Because ELS confers vulnerability for a range of psychiatric illnesses, elucidating the effects of ELS on broad domains of function in which aberrations are posited to transect a variety of psychopathologies will allow us to develop a more comprehensive and integrative understanding of how risk for psychopathology emerges and is manifested in children with a history of ELS. Further, findings from this project will inform early interventions aimed at preventing the long-term sequelae of ELS.
Early life stress (ELS) is a significant risk factor for the development of psychiatric symptoms that cut across diagnostic categories. The mechanisms through which ELS confers this heightened vulnerability, however, are poorly understood. Given the enormous number of referrals in the US involving child maltreatment each year, it is imperative that we examine the neurodevelopmental consequences of ELS and the mechanisms by which changes in neurobiological function increase risk for psychopathology. Findings from the proposed project will lead to a more integrative understanding of how risk for psychopathology emerges and is manifested in children with ELS, and will inform early interventions aimed at preventing adverse consequence of ELS.
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