Social adversities experienced in childhood can have a profound impact on the developing brain, leading to the emergence of psychopathologies in adulthood. Despite the burden this places on both the individual and society, the neurobiological aspects mediating this transition remain unclear. Recent advances in preclinical and clinical research have begun examining neuroplasticity—the nervous system’s ability to form adaptive changes in response to new experience—in the context of early-life vulnerability to social adversities and plasticity-related alterations following such traumatic events. A key mediator of plasticity-related molecular processes is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has also been implicated in various psychiatric disorders related to childhood social adversities. Preclinical and clinical data suggest early-life social adversities (ELSA) might be associated with accelerated maturation of social network circuitry, a possible ontogenic adaptation to the adverse environment. Neural plasticity decreases by adulthood, lessening the efficacy of treatment in ELSA-related psychiatric disorders. However, literature data suggest that by increasing BDNF/TrkB signalling through antidepressant treatment a juvenile-like plasticity state can be induced, which allows for reorganization of the social circuitry when guided by psychotherapy and surrounded by a safe and positive environment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health