Stress is an adaptive response to demands of the environment and thus essential for survival. Exposure to stress during the first years of life has been shown to have profound effects on the growth and development of an adult individual. There are evidences demonstrating that stressful experiences during gestation or in early life can lead to enhanced susceptibility to mental disorders. Early-life stress triggers hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis activation and the associated neurochemical reactions following glucocorticoid release are accompanied by a rapid physiological response. An excessive response may affect the developing brain resulting in neurobehavioral and neurochemical changes later in life. This article reviews the data from experimental studies aimed to investigate hormonal, functional, molecular and epigenetic mechanisms involved in the stress response during early-life programming. We think these studies might prove useful for the identification of novel pharmacological targets for more effective treatments of mental disorders.
Silberman, D. M., Acosta, G. B., & Zorrilla Zubilete, M. A. (2016, July 1). Long-term effects of early life stress exposure: Role of epigenetic mechanisms. Pharmacological Research. Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2015.12.033