Stress and the Developing Brain

Stress and the Developing Brain

Lisa Wright, Tara Perrot
ISBN: 9781615045273 | PDF ISBN: 9781615045280
Copyright © 2012 | 76 Pages | Publication Date: 12/01/2012

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The human brain does not develop in a vacuum according to a set of predetermined blueprints; it is involved in a dynamic interplay with the environment that influences gene expression and ultimately structure and function. Some cortical regions, such as the prefrontal cortex (PFC) undergo structural changes throughout the adolescent period and into early adulthood, making their structure and functions particularly interesting to study with respect to gene-environment interactions. Repeated exposure to stress is a predisposing factor in the emergence of various mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, although this is by no means an absolute relationship. While some people appear to be vulnerable to the effects of repeated stressors, others are resilient, and this individual variability is partly due to developmental programming of brain regions involved in modulating stress responding, such as the PFC. In the present book, we will discuss features of adolescent brain development that may provide a basis for neural plasticity in stress responding: the highly protracted development of the PFC, the profound change in interconnectedness among cortical and subcortical brain regions, and the characteristic 'rise and fall pattern' for many of the late-developing aspects of neural architecture in PFC and other stress-related brain regions.

Table of Contents

The Stress Response System
The Human Brain
Developmental Programming of the Stress Response
The Importance of Adolescence
Understanding Adult Stress Responding Using a Developmental Framework
Author Biographies

About the Author(s)

Lisa Wright, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Dalhousie University
Dr. Lisa Wright completed her PhD in psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her thesis work for both her Master's (2005) and PhD (2011) degrees was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Tara Perrot, with whom she has studied adolescent brain development, associated behavioural changes, and the effects of repeated stressor exposure, using a rat model. Prior to this, Dr. Wright completed an Honours degree (2002) in biology with a minor in psychology in her hometown of Fredericton, at the University of New Brunswick. Currently, she is doing research work and teaching at Dalhousie and at Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Tara Perrot, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Dalhousie University
Dr. Tara Perrot began her academic career by completing a BSc Honours degree in psychology at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), London, Ontario, Canada. It was during this time that she became intrigued with neuroscience research under the tutelage of Dr. Mel Goodale. She continued her career at UWO, entering the Neuroscience Graduate Program and beginning her research dedicated to understanding sex differences in stress responding, culminating in a PhD in 1998. Dr. Perrot was intent on expanding her research skills and moved to the University of Maryland School of Medicine to pursue a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship with Dr. Margaret McCarthy. In 2002, Dr. Perrot joined the Faculty of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She is an associate professor in that department and in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. Dr. Perrot's present research interests are focused on understanding the influence of internal and external cues during development in shaping the adult stress response.

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