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date: 09 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Traumatic experiences can be challenging at any age, but recent evidence has highlighted the trauma experienced from an attachment figure as particularly detrimental. Fear, or threat, conditioning is a major experimental paradigm that has uncovered the neurobiology of trauma processing. This controlled paradigm has enabled us to understand the changing neurobiology of trauma processing as well as the developmental importance of caregiver presence during trauma. Maternal presence buffers the infant during brief trauma exposure, although repeated trauma in her presence programs the enduring trauma effects on the neurobiology of cognition and emotion. We review the data on innate and learned fear responses across development and describe the interaction between trauma and attachment in early life when threatening cues are processed by the attachment circuitry, rather than fear circuitry, within the brain. This approach can provide insight into age-specific treatments and interventions following infant trauma in the presence of a caregiver.

Keywords: Trauma, threat, fear, attachment, amygdala, development, stress, sensitive period, infant, maternal care

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