By Neuroscience News
Researchers explore how early-life stress may intensify the effects of childhood head injuries, altering brain gene activation more than the injuries themselves.
Head injuries in young children, often from falls, are linked to later-life mood disorders and social difficulties, just as adverse childhood experiences can heighten risks for various adult health issues.
Kathryn Lenz from The Ohio State University leads a study to understand the combined impact of traumatic brain injuries and early-life stress on brain development.
Initial experiments reveal that early-life stress causes significantly more changes in brain gene expression than traumatic brain injuries do, underscoring the potent impact of stress on brain development.
Researchers induce stress in newborn rats to mimic adverse childhood experiences and analyze their response to subsequent head injuries compared to non-stressed rats.
Both stress alone and combined with head injury activate brain pathways related to plasticity and oxytocin, a hormone linked to social bonding and maternal behavior.
Rats exposed to early-life stress display increased risk-taking behaviors in adulthood, paralleling human conditions like ADHD and substance use disorders.
Lenz emphasizes the critical need to address early-life stressors, highlighting the protective role of social support and enrichment in mitigating their long-term effects.