summary: Unpredictable parenting behavior and an unpredictable environment impair the optimal development of emotional brain circuits during a child’s development, increasing the risk of mental health disorders and substance abuse later in life.
Source: UC Irvine
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine are leading research into the concept that unpredictable parenting behaviors, combined with unpredictable environments, such as lack of routine and frequent disasters, disrupt optimal emotional brain circuit development in children with mental illness. increase their vulnerability to and substance abuse.
In an article published online today science, Dr. Tally Z. Baram, corresponding author and UCI Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Pediatrics, Neurology, and Physiology and Biophysics; and Matthew T. Birney, first author, a UCI postdoctoral researcher, describes the principles of emotional brain circuit formation derived from animal studies and their impact on children’s cognitive development and mental health.
“This perspective begins with the basic principles of how the brain’s sensory-auditory and visual- and motor circuits are established and refined, and we apply them to the emotional circuits that control reward-, stress- and fear-related behaviors. We do.
It is not only positive or negative parenting cues, but the patterns of these behaviors, and especially their predictability or unpredictability, that are associated with adverse outcomes such as poor emotional control in later life. Baram said that the latter are indicators of higher risk for mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse,” Baram said.
The formation of sensory brain circuits involves an early stage of genetically and molecularly driven actions, including neuronal migration and the establishment of synapses.
Many decisions and actions are involved in complex emotional and cognitive human behavior and are also executed by brain circuits.
These higher-order circuits involve the interaction of prefrontal cortical regions, thalamic nuclei, hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamic nuclei, and subcortical regions of the brain.
They receive multiple streams of information that fuel the activity of neurons in the circuit. This activity is necessary for the maturation of components and refinement of integrated connections.
In early life, as these emotional circuits are developing, parents are the closest primary environment: they are sources of information that influence the maturation of the child’s brain.
Studies of rats reared by dams that displayed unexpected behavioral sequences (but the same amount of care) during the early postnatal period suggest that maternal behaviors affect synaptic connectivity in key brain nodes, including those that contribute to stress.
Research involving infants and toddlers suggests that unpredictable patterns of maternal behavior are associated with subsequent deficits in emotional control and behavior.
These effects persist even after correction for other early life variables such as maternal sensitivity to infant needs, socioeconomic status, and maternal depressive symptoms.
Baram said, “The important thing about this research is that it identifies new targets for intervention and helps us think about measures to best support the development of mentally and cognitively healthy children.” ”
“Unpredictability is actionable, as we can aim to inform and educate parents, caregivers, and others about the importance of predictable cues and environments for brain maturation of infants and toddlers.”
Baram and his team are continuing their research at the UCI Conte Center. “We are conducting mechanistic studies in experimental rodents and monitoring infants, children and adolescents at the centre. We are now ready to test our discoveries in large-scale, ‘real-world’ research,” she said.
About this neurodevelopment and behavioral neuroscience research news
Author: Press Office
Source: UC Irvine
contact: Press Office – UC Irvine
image: Image credits to School of Medicine / UCI
Basic Research: closed access.
“Principles of Emotional Brain Circuit Maturation” by Tally Z. Baram et al. science
Principles of emotional brain circuit maturation
The mammalian brain is organized in an overlapping, intercalated circuits, and an extensive body of information has focused on the maturation of sensory (visual, auditory) and motor circuits. Nevertheless, little is known about the maturation principles of “emotional” brain circuits that govern reward-, stress- and fear-related behaviors.
Evidence suggests that sensory input from the environment during the sensitive period in early postnatal life has a significant impact on emotional circuit development, as aversive or positive images, smells and sounds influence feelings and actions in adulthood.
Disrupted operation of emotional circuits underlies mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. Therefore, increased recognition of the principles that guide the development of these circuits is important for understanding human health.