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date: 19 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews research identifying brain systems that are sensitive to early socioeconomic adversity, as well as the key pathways linking aspects of early adversity to alterations in neural function. The research suggests that the structure and function of an integrated network underlying self-regulation and attention—including the prefrontal cortex (PFC), amygdala, and hippocampus—is particularly sensitive to early socioeconomic adversity. Drawing on both experimental data from animal models and correlational evidence from humans, alterations in these systems are linked to chronic stress associated with early adversity as well as differences in supportive caregiving in response to environmental stressors. This research highlights a specific set of malleable pathways amenable to family-based intervention that link early adversity to brain development. In this respect, neuroplasticity is framed as incorporating both sensitivity in the face of adverse experiences as well as resilience through buffering and adaptive change.

Keywords: socioeconomic adversity, attention, self-regulation, stress, chronic stress, brain, neural function, neuroplasticity, family-based intervention

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