Impact Factor
This article is part of the Research Topic Long term consequences of early life experience


Front. Behav. Neurosci., 18 September 2009 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/neuro.08.032.2009

Developmental cascades linking stress inoculation, arousal regulation, and resilience

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University Stanford, CA, USA
Stressful experiences that are challenging but not overwhelming appear to promote the development of arousal regulation and resilience. Variously described in studies of humans as inoculating, steeling, or toughening, the notion that coping with early life stress enhances arousal regulation and resilience is further supported by longitudinal studies of squirrel monkey development. Exposure to early life stress inoculation diminishes subsequent indications of anxiety, increases exploration of novel situations, and decreases stress-levels of cortisol compared to age-matched monkeys raised in undisturbed social groups. Stress inoculation also enhances prefrontal-dependent cognitive control of behavior and increases ventromedial prefrontal cortical volumes. Larger volumes do not reflect increased cortical thickness but instead represent surface area expansion of ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Expansion of ventromedial prefrontal cortex coincides with increased white matter myelination inferred from diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging. These findings suggest that early life stress inoculation triggers developmental cascades across multiple domains of adaptive functioning. Prefrontal myelination and cortical expansion induced by the process of coping with stress support broad and enduring trait-like transformations in cognitive, motivational, and emotional aspects of behavior. Implications for programs designed to promote resilience in humans are discussed.
emotion regulation, cognitive control, curiosity, cortisol, neuroplasticity, prolonged exposure therapy, resilience
Lyons DM, Parker KJ, Katz M and Schatzberg AF (2009). Developmental cascades linking stress inoculation, arousal regulation, and resilience. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 3:32. doi: 10.3389/neuro.08.032.2009
01 May 2009;
 Paper pending published:
10 July 2009;
01 September 2009;
 Published online:
18 September 2009.

Edited by:

Anne Z. Murphy, Georgia State University, USA

Reviewed by:

Peg McCarthy, University of Maryland, USA
Tracy L. Bale, University of Pennsylvania, USA
© 2009 Lyons, Parker, Katz and Schatzberg. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.
David M. Lyons, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 1201 Welch Rd, MSLS P104, Stanford, CA 94305-5485, USA. e-mail: dmlyons@stanford.edu