“Nothing is written in stone,” the late Seymour Levine once said about the amazing plasticity of the developing brain in adaptation to an ever-changing environment (
1). These adaptations, in response to environmental input, may cause lasting changes in the function of the evolutionary older brain circuitry, underlying emotion and cognition. As a result, adverse experiences in early life are thought to enhance disease vulnerability. However, recent evidence suggests that early adversity does not inevitably lead to a negative outcome (
- Levine S.
Developmental determinants of sensitivity and resistance to stress.
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005; 30: 939-946
2). Rather, depending on genes and environmental context, early experience may program the brain for life to come. In this issue, Bagot et al. (
- Champagne D.L.
- Bagot R.C.
- vanHasselt F.
- Ramakers G.
- Meaney M.J.
- deKloet E.R.
- et al.
Maternal care and hippocampal plasticity: Evidence for experience-dependent structural plasticity, altered synaptic functioning, and differential responsiveness to glucocorticoids and stress.
J Neurosci. 2008; 28: 6037-6045
3) describe the crucial role of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor in this programming effect.
- Bagot R.C.
- Tse Y.C.
- Nguyen H.B.
- Wong A.S.
- Meaney M.J.
- Wong T.P.
Maternal care influences hippocampal N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor function and dynamic regulation by corticosterone in adulthood.
Biol Psychiatry. 2012; 72: 491-498
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- Developmental determinants of sensitivity and resistance to stress.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005; 30: 939-946
- Maternal care and hippocampal plasticity: Evidence for experience-dependent structural plasticity, altered synaptic functioning, and differential responsiveness to glucocorticoids and stress.J Neurosci. 2008; 28: 6037-6045
- Maternal care influences hippocampal N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor function and dynamic regulation by corticosterone in adulthood.Biol Psychiatry. 2012; 72: 491-498
- Maternal care, hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress.Science. 1997; 277: 1659-1662
- Peripubertal environmental enrichment reverses the effects of maternal care on hippocampal development and glutamate receptor subunit expression.Eur J Neurosci. 2004; 20: 1355-1362
- Genetic variation in the epigenetic machinery and mental health.Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2012; 14: 138-149
- Rodent model of infant attachment learning and stress.Dev Psychobiol. 2010; 52: 651-660
- Variations in heritability of cortisol reactivity to stress as a function of early familial adversity among 19-month-old twins.Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008; 65: 211-218
- Rapid effects of corticosterone in the mouse dentate gyrus via a nongenomic pathway.J Neuroendocrinol. 2011; 23: 143-147
- Long-lasting behavioral responses to stress involve a direct interaction of glucocorticoid receptors with ERK1/2-MSK1-Elk-1 signaling.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011; 16: 13806-13811
Accepted: July 6, 2012
Received: July 6, 2012
© 2012 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.