A developmental and neurobiological approach to early trauma research

Basic and clinical research documents associations between stress and a set of related psychobiologic perturbations, including dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, alterations in the structure and function of the medial temporal lobe, and impairments in explicit memory. Although these associations are thought to emerge developmentally, insufficient clinical research elucidates the manner in which early trauma relates to these abnormalities. To gain a better understanding of relevant processes, we propose the use of a developmental and neurobiological approach, where data in animal models are used to inform studies in traumatized children who will be followed longitudinally. This approach will help clarify how early traumatic events have the capacity to lead to psychopathology or a healthy outcome.