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Prenatal stress and enhanced developmental plasticity.


Two separate lines of inquiry indicate (a) that prenatal stress is associated with heightened behavioral and physiological reactivity, and (b) that these postnatal phenotypes are associated with increased susceptibility to both positive and negative developmental experiences and environmental exposures. This research considered together raises the intriguing hypothesis first advanced by Pluess and Belsky (Dev Psychopathol 23:29-38, 2011) that prenatal-stress fosters, promotes or "programs" postnatal developmental plasticity. In this paper, we review further evidence consistent with this proposition, including a novel animal study which experimentally manipulated both prenatal stress and postnatal rearing. Directions for future work focused on mechanisms mediating the plasticity-inducing effects of prenatal stress and the moderators of such effects are outlined.

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