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Neurobiological Markers of Resilience to Early-Life Adversity During Adolescence


Early-life adversity (ELA) exposure (e.g., trauma, abuse, neglect, or institutional care) is a precursor to poor physical and mental health outcomes and is implicated in 30% of adult mental illness. In recent decades, ELA research has increasingly focused on characterizing factors that confer resilience to ELA and on identifying opportunities for intervention. In this review, we describe recent behavioral and neurobiological resilience work that suggests that adolescence (a period marked by heightened plasticity, development of key neurobiological circuitry, and sensitivity to the social environment) may be a particularly opportune moment for ELA intervention. We review intrapersonal factors associated with resilience that become increasingly important during adolescence (specifically, reward processing, affective learning, and self-regulation) and describe the contextual factors (family, peers, and broader social environment) that modulate them. In addition, we describe how the onset of puberty interacts with each of these factors, and we explore recent findings that point to possible "pubertal recalibration" of ELA exposure as an opportunity for intervention. We conclude by describing considerations and future directions for resilience research in adolescents, with a focus on understanding developmental trajectories using dimensional and holistic models of resilience.

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