The neurobiology of stress and development

Stress is a part of every life to varying degrees, but individuals differ in their stress vulnerability. Stress is usefully viewed from a biological perspective; accordingly, it involves activation of neurobiological systems that preserve viability through change or allostasis. Although they are necessary for survival, frequent neurobiological stress responses increase the risk of physical and mental health problems, perhaps particularly when experienced during periods of rapid brain development. Recently, advances in noninvasive measurement techniques have resulted in a burgeoning of human developmental stress research. Here we review the anatomy and physiology of stress responding, discuss the relevant animal literature, and briefly outline what is currently known about the psychobiology of stress in human development, the critical role of social regulation of stress neurobiology, and the importance of individual differences as a lens through which to approach questions about stress experiences during development and child outcomes.
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