Early life stress and amygdala development
Adolescence is a time of rapid social, emotional, and cognitive growth, and also a time when symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders emerge. The amygdala is a central structure involved in emotional processing and learning. Recent evidence indicates that the amygdala structure and function is influenced by stress and glucocorticoids, possibly contributing to the amygdala’s well-known dysregulation in mood and anxiety disorders.
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The Social Brain and the Amygdala
Emotional dysregulation in psychiatric syndromes is often expressed as maladaptive social function, including misinterpretation of social cues. Functional imaging studies in humans demonstrate two cortical networks that are frequently dysregulated in psychiatric illnesses.
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Dopamine and Stress: Circuits Through the Extended Amygdala
Over the last decade, the 'extended amygdala' has been implicated in fear/anxiety behaviors, attention-cognition, and appetitive behavior, including drug addiction. In 2000, we first focused on the potential impact of the extended amygdala on the dopamine system in primates(1, 2). Although the idea was novel—and somewhat controversial-- at that time, subsequent work from other laboratories and our own indicate that the extended amygdala-dopamine pathway is an important pathway mediating the effects of stress-induced behaviors, including depressive-like symptoms and drug-seeking.
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