YOUNG INVESTIGATOR SYMPOSIUM: EARLY LIFE STRESS EFFECTS ON EMOTIONAL LEARNING: MECHANISMS AND INTERVENTIONS FROM HUMAN AND ANIMAL MODELS

Symposium Chair: Maya Opendak, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City, USA

Presenters:

  • Dylan Gee, Yale University, New Haven, USA
  • Kevin Bath, Brown University, Providence, USA
  • Maya Opendak, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City, USA

Although trauma experienced at any age can have deleterious effects on cognition and emotion, trauma experienced in early life has unique consequences on neurobehavioral development. In particular, many individuals with a history of early-life trauma demonstrate impairments in emotional processing—a hallmark of clinical disorders including anxiety, depression and PTSD. Due to ethical and technical challenges of studying early-life trauma in humans, the mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear. Animal models have provided insight into causation, as well as the development of targeted interventions following trauma to prevent the emergence of deficits.

Here we present data bridging human and animal research examining the mechanisms for how early life stress programs fear learning across the lifespan. We will begin by examining a key determinant of the long-term effects of early-life stress in humans, showing that exposure to controllable stress during development promotes neurobiological and behavioral responding to subsequent stress. We then transition to animal research to further tease apart mechanisms, presenting data from rodents showing that abusive or neglectful caregiving in early-life accelerates the development of fear processing and the maturation of brain regions important for emotional development, including amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Finally, we will present data on the acute neurobehavioral changes occurring during developmental trauma. The studies and discussion presented here will demonstrate the necessity of bridging human and animal work in order to understand the effects of early life trauma on emotional learning and to develop effective strategies for intervention and treatment

Presentation 1: MECHANISMS OF STRESSOR CONTROLLABILITY FOLLOWING EARLY-LIFE TRAUMA IN HUMANS. Dylan Gee, Yale University, New Haven, USA ABSTRACT

Presentation 2: EARLY LIFE STRESS IS ASSOCIATED WITH PRECOCIOUS AMYGDALA DEVELOPMENT AND AN UNEXPECTED DIP IN THREAT-ASSOCIATED FREEZING. Kevin G. Bath, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA. ABSTRACT

Presentation 3: INFANT TRAUMA WITH A CAREGIVER: ACUTE NEUROBEHAVIORAL MECHANISMS AND A ROLE FOR AMYGDALA DOPAMINE. Maya Opendak, Emotional Brain Institute, Nathan Kline Institute & Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA ABSTRACT