Do early-life events permanently alter behavioral and hormonal responses to stressors?
Early-life stimulation (e.g., brief handling) attenuates the behavioral and neuroendocrine responses to stressors encountered in adulthood, particularly with respect to activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity. In contrast, if neonates were subjected to a more severe stressor, such as protracted separation from the dam or exposure to an endotoxin, then the adult response to a stressor was exaggerated. These early-life experiences program HPA functioning, including negative feedback derived from stimulation of hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors, and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) coexpression in PVN neurons, to modify the response to subsequent stressor experiences. The persistent variations of HPA activity observed in handled/stimulated animals may stem from alterations in dam-pup interactions (e.g. increased arched-back feeding, licking, grooming). In addition genetic makeup is critical in determining stress reactivity. For in