Individuals are exposed to stressful events in their daily life. The effects of stress on brain function ranges from highly adaptive to increasing the risk to develop psychopathology. For example, stressful experiences are remembered well which can be seen as a highly appropriate behavioral adaptation. On the other hand, stress is an important risk factor, in susceptible individuals, for depression and anxiety. An important question that remains to be addressed is how stress regulates brain function and what determines the threshold between adaptive and maladaptive responses. Excitatory synapses play a crucial role in synaptic transmission, synaptic plasticity and behavioral adaptation. In this review we discuss how brief and prolonged exposure to stress, in adulthood and early life, regulate the function of these synapses, and how these effects may contribute to behavioral adaptation and psychopathology. © 2013 IBRO.
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