- Stress during early childhood may
lead to faster maturation of the brain during
- Faster maturation prevents the
brain from flexibly adjusting to the current environment
- Stress on the brain can increase the risk of developing antisocial personality traits
Stress due to negative experiences
during childhood may lead to faster maturation of certain regions of the brain
during adolescence, according to a new study from Radboud University. The study
in the journal Scientific Reports
Brain Development and Adolescence
During adolescence, previously made
connections of the brain are refined and made efficient by a natural process
called pruning. This makes it crucial for the brain development to occur in a
systematic manner. Faster or slower maturation of the brain can alter the
The long-term study included 37 participants
who were monitored for almost 20 years. The study was initialized in 1988 and
over the next 20 years, the research team studied the children's play sessions and
interactions with parents,
friends and classmates. They were also subjected to MRI scans
. The data
was used to analyze how stress in various life stages affects the adolescent
brain, especially the cerebral areas, of these children.
‘Stress caused by negative experiences during childhood can lead to faster maturation of certain regions of the brain during adolescence.
The team investigated two types of stressors
of the social environment. The two types were:
- negative life events and
- negative influences.
Later, these were analysed in two life
- Early childhood (0-5 years) and
- Adolescence (14-17 years)
The stress levels measured were related to
the maturation of the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all of which
play a key role in functioning in social and emotional situations.
- Stress during
childhood caused due to negative experiences, such as illness or divorce, was related to faster maturation of the
prefrontal cortex and amygdala during adolescence.
- Stress during
due from negative social
environment, such as low peer esteem at school, was related to slower maturation of the hippocampus.
- Social stress
later in life leads to slower maturation during adolescence and stronger
the effect of stress on the brain higher the risk of developing antisocial
'The fact that early childhood stress
accelerates the maturation process during adolescence is consistent with
theories of evolutionary biology,' says PhD student Anna Tyborowska of Radboud
University. 'From an evolutionary perspective, it is useful to mature faster if
you grow up in a stressful environment. However, it also prevents the brain
from adjusting to the current environment in a flexible way. In other words,
the brain become "mature" too soon.'
- Baby's Brain Begins Now: Conception to Age 3 - (http://www.urbanchildinstitute.org/why-0-3/baby-and-brain)
- Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development - (https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/brain_development.pdf)