Research Topic

Early Life Adversity’s Impact on Brain and Body: Understanding Disrupted Circuits to Identify Preventive Strategies

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Early life adversity (ELA) is associated with higher risks for mental and physical diseases. Large cohort studies found significantly increased risks for psychiatric disorders such as major depression, personality disorder and substance abuse, as well as for physical disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, ...

Early life adversity (ELA) is associated with higher risks for mental and physical diseases. Large cohort studies found significantly increased risks for psychiatric disorders such as major depression, personality disorder and substance abuse, as well as for physical disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, adiposity and autoimmune diseases. Moreover, a dose-response relationship could be observed with increased ELA leading to increased risk for diseases. In addition, ELA negatively impacts the treatment course of a disease, producing a worse outcome. Several mechanisms are implicated in the trajectories induced by ELA. Long-term effects of ELA on the immune function could repeatedly be observed with low-grade inflammation in combination with elevated cortico-amygdala threat sensitivity and reduced cortico-basal ganglia reward sensitivity. In addition, preclinical and clinical studies showed persistent disruptions in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis caused by ELA, for example, substantial alterations of FKBP5, a stress-responsive molecular hub that regulates the HPA axis in relation with environmental factors. In conclusion, there is a great need to further understand the mechanisms of ELA and its sequelae to identify new strategies to remediate the effects of ELA before the onset of clinical symptoms. In addition, these new strategies may also help to improve the unfavorable treatment response described in psychiatric patients with a history of ELA.

For this Research Topic, we welcome clinical and preclinical studies as well as review articles that investigate and discuss the influence of ELA on psychiatric and medical conditions. A particular interest will be given to studies focusing on the interplay between the brain and other organs, for example, the brain-heart axis or the brain-gut axis in relation with ELA.
Work of interest to this topic may include:
-ELA effects on psychiatric disorders such as major depression
-How does ELA effect treatment response in psychiatric disorders?
-ELA effects on diagnosis-independent outcomes such as suicidality, sleep and cognition
-Differentiation of biological mechanisms resulting from different ELA types: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and emotional and physical neglect
-In-depth assessments of ELA with high-definition approaches such as DNA sequencing, trancriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, microbiomics, advanced imaging, physiological monitoring and behavioral tracking
-Mechanisms: how does ELA exert their life-long effects, and how can we predict who is at risk?
-Associations of ELA with endogenous fight-or-flight response systems, such as the immune system, the HPA axis and the adrenergic nervous system (ANS)
-Associations of ELA with medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cardiac failure, cancer or lung disease …
-Does age and duration of ELA impact on (long-term) outcomes?
-How can we develop early interventions following ELA?
-How can we treat the consequences of ELA at an adult age?
-Does physical activity also ameliorate the negative consequences of ELA?


Keywords: Depression, Anxiety, Precision Medecine, Stress, Heart, Early Life Adversity


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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