Brain development is affected by stress early in development. Activity of the hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenocortical (HPA) axis plays a role in mediating the effects of adversity on the developing brain. The impact of glucocorticoids on brain development has been studied in animal models. The literature linking activity of the HPA axis to memory, attention, and emotion in human children is briefly reviewed. Evidence for decreased reactivity of the HPA system developing over the first year of life is presented. Finally, the role of sensitive and responsive caregiving in buffering reactivity of the HPA system to potentially stressful events is described. It is argued that these data provide yet more support for the importance of fostering safe, secure care for children early in their development.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
1The work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD16494) and an Independent Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH00946).
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- Cingulate gyrus
- HPA system