Plasticity of the stress response early in life: mechanisms and significance.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1002/dev.20490
The concept that early-life experience influences the brain long-term has been extensively studied over the past 50 years, whereas genetic factors determine the sequence and levels of expression of specific neuronal genes, this genetic program can be modified enduringly as a result of experience taking place during critical developmental periods. This programming is of major importance because it appears to govern many behavioral and physiological phenotypes and promote susceptibility or resilience to disease. An established example of the consequences of early-life experience-induced programming includes the effects of maternal care, where patterns of augmented care result in decreased neuroendocrine stress responses, improved cognition and resilience to depression in the recipients of this care. Here, we discuss the nature and mechanisms of this programming phenomenon, focusing on work from our lab that was inspired by Seymour Levine and his fundamental contributions to the field.