Stress: Could it affect a child’s brain development?
Doctors really don’t know the extent of the effects of stress on the developing brain. Could stress during early childhood could affect brain growth?
New research suggests it’s possible. When researchers worked with mice exposed to stress early in life (less consistent and attentive care from their mothers than the control mice experienced), they found that the hippocampus (a region in the brain) developed at a faster rate. It’s called “stress-related early maturation.”
It appears that the stress experienced during early development accelerated memory, fear-driven learning and sexual development. It seems that this stress cued the brain to adapt so the mouse had a better chance at survival.
What does this mean for humans? Well, understanding the effects of early stress on the brain could help mental health professionals treat human patients. It’s possible that children growing up in stressful environments actually do “grow up” faster than those living in households without high stressors. It will be interesting to see how this research can potentially help humans. Read more about it here.