Early life stress and brain function: Activity and connectivity associated with processing emotion and reward

Max P. Herzberg, Megan R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Investigating the developmental sequelae of early life stress has provided researchers the opportunity to examine adaptive responses to extreme environments. A large body of work has established mechanisms by which the stressful experiences of childhood poverty, maltreatment, and institutional care can impact the brain and the distributed stress systems of the body. These mechanisms are reviewed briefly to lay the foundation upon which the current neuroimaging literature has been built. More recently, developmental cognitive neuroscientists have identified a number of the effects of early adversity, including differential behavior and brain function. Among the most consistent of these findings are differences in the processing of emotion and reward-related information. The neural correlates of emotion processing, particularly frontolimbic functional connectivity, have been well studied in early life stress samples with results indicating accelerated maturation following early adversity. Reward processing has received less attention, but here the evidence suggests a deficit in reward sensitivity. It is as yet unknown whether the accelerated maturation of emotion-regulation circuits comes at the cost of delayed development in other systems, most notably the reward system. This review addresses the early life stress neuroimaging literature that has investigated emotion and reward processing, identifying important next steps in the study of brain function following adversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116493
JournalNeuroImage
Volume209
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NICHD Grants R01 HD075349 (?Pubertal Stress Recalibration Hypothesis?), R21 HD086312, and JPB Foundation Grant #1025: Research Network on Toxic Stress and Health (M.R.G.). Further support was provided by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grants TL1R002493 and UL1TR002494 (M.P.H.). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The authors would like to thank their colleagues for thoughtful discussions that shaped the ideas presented here.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NICHD Grants R01 HD075349 (“Pubertal Stress Recalibration Hypothesis”), R21 HD086312 , and JPB Foundation Grant # 1025 : Research Network on Toxic Stress and Health (M.R.G.). Further support was provided by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences , grants TL1R002493 and UL1TR002494 (M.P.H.). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The authors would like to thank their colleagues for thoughtful discussions that shaped the ideas presented here.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s)

Keywords

  • Brain function
  • Early life stress
  • Emotion processing
  • Functional connectivity
  • HPA axis
  • Reward processing

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

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