An individual’s genetic blueprint is read (Shonkoff J.P,

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Last updated: August 26, 2019

 An increasing body of research evidence points to theability of early life experience to trigger epigenetic modifications,effectively altering brain structure by changing gene transcription.

Propagation of synaptic connections, myelination (forming a fatty white substance that surrounds the axon), pproliferation of nneuroglia (cells in the brain that form a supporting structure for theneurons and provide them with insulation), circulatorysupport systems and numerous other neuroanatomical process continue long afterthe child’s birth (Kaufman, J.; Plotsky, P.M.; Nemeroff, C.B.

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; Charney,D.S. 2000). Human nature through evolution giveschildren a possibility to adapt to the specific needs presented by theenvironment into which they have been born. Optimal development of the neuroendocrine system is dependent onadequate nutrition (and absence of toxins like lead, mercury, alcohol, andother adverse substances) and the proper stimulation of the child’sneurological systems (Perry B.D, Pollard R.

A, Blakely T. L,Baker W. L, Vigilante D. (1995).  An effective stimulation requiresinteraction with other people because children cannot provide stimulation ontheir own. Otherpeople must be present, and be attentive, consistent and predictable enough to respondto the developing child’s needs.

 Gene expression is influenced by experience.   Genetic research has identified a variety of gene alleles (a variant form of a given gene) that appear toprotect against, or predispose to, long-term sequelae of traumatic stress, byvarying the sensitivity of stress hormone receptors in the limbic system. Anincreasing body of evidence points to the ability of early life experience totrigger epigenetic modifications, effectively altering brain structure bychanging gene transcription (Fiori LM, Turecki G. 2016, Gudsnuk, K.

& Champagne, F. 2012, McGowanP.O, Sasaki A, Labonte, B., Turecki, G. D’Alessio AC, Dymov, S. 2009). A child’s long-term change in stressresponse could be affected by early adversity by altering the way anindividual’s genetic blueprint is read (Shonkoff J.

P, Garner A.S. 2012). The body systems aremutually interactiveSocialinteractions (or the lack thereof) may thus affect neuroendocrine development,which can alter observed behaviors.

Behavior in turn produces social feedback,which stimulates a neuroendocrine response (a physiologic in nature) and, beingstrong enough, may cause modifications in brain structures (an anatomic innature). Life under conditions of extreme stress has been shown to produceepigenetic modifications in gene transcription and cause structural changes in the developing brain: relations become biological structure (Perry B.D, Pollard R. A, Blakely T.

L, Baker W. L,Vigilante D. 1995; Mehta MA, Golembo NI, Nosarti C 2009). This action has two-way street direction: the genes and epigeneticmodifications to their transcription, ultimately determine the brain’sstructure, which governs the child’s interaction with the environment (called’human behavior”) which in turn interactively affects the neuroendocrine, andgenetic/epigenetic systems (gene expression). Development results from ongoing andcumulative interactions between experience, biology, and behavior (called eco-bio-developmentalmodel by some researches: (Fiori LM, Turecki G. (2016), Gudsnuk, K. & Champagne, F. 2012).

 Ifearly childhood experiences are protective and personal, adaptive or healthycoping skills are more likely. If early experiences are insecure or impersonal,maladaptive or unhealthy coping skills are more likely (HibbardR, Barlow J, Macmillan H; Psychological maltreatment. 2012).

 

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