Dylan Gee, Yale University, New Haven, USA
Rodent and initial human adult studies suggest that exposure to controllable stress may sensitize frontostriatal-amygdala circuitry to promote more adaptive biobehavioral reactivity to subsequent stressors. Dynamic changes in human frontostriatal-amygdala circuitry from childhood to adulthood suggest that the impact of controllable stress exposure may vary across development. Thus, variation in control may be a key determinant of both short- and long-term consequences of early-life stress. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study we designed a developmentally adapted stressor controllability task to test the neurobiological and behavioral mechanisms underlying the effects of controllable stress exposure. Participants ages 8-25 were randomized to a controllable stress, uncontrollable stress, or no stress control condition at time 1, and all participants experienced uncontrollable stress exposure at time 2. Life history of trauma exposure was assessed as a key hypothesized moderator. Participants exposed to controllable stress reported significantly lower stress ratings to subsequent uncontrollable stress, and parallel findings were observed in a more objective measure of skin conductance response. Further, the experience of controllable stress engaged the hypothesized frontolimbic circuitry. These findings suggest that exposure to controllable stress promotes reduced reactivity to subsequent stress during development and may provide insight into approaches for optimizing behavioral interventions to foster resilience following early-life trauma.