Neurodevelopmental Mechanisms linking Early Adversity with Adolescent Psychopathology

Colloquium | April 2 | 12:10-1:10 p.m. | 3105 Tolman Hall

 Kate McLaughlin, Department of Psychology, University of Washington

 Institute of Human Development

Children who have experienced environmental adversity—such as abuse, neglect, or poverty—are at markedly elevated risk for developing psychopathology. What is less clear is how and why adverse early experiences exert such a profound influence on mental health. Identifying developmental processes that are disrupted by adverse early environments is the key to developing better intervention strategies for children who have experienced adversity. Yet, much existing research relies on a cumulative risk approach that is unlikely to reveal these mechanisms. This approach implicitly assumes that very different environmental experiences influence development through the same underlying mechanisms. In this talk, I advance an alternative model and examine its utility in identifying mechanisms linking adversity with adolescent psychopathology. This novel approach conceptualizes adversity along distinct dimensions, emphasizes the central role of learning mechanisms and the neural circuitry that supports these mechanisms, and distinguishes between different forms of adversity that might influence learning and neural development in distinct ways. A key advantage of this approach is that learning mechanisms provide clear targets for interventions aimed at preventing psychopathology in children who have experienced adversity.

 CA, lisabranum@berkeley.edu, 5106427239