Early Life Adversity and Neuropsychiatric Disease: Differential Outcomes and Translational Relevance of Rodent Models

Renée C. Waters, Elizabeth Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


It is now well-established that early life adversity (ELA) predisposes individuals to develop several neuropsychiatric conditions, including anxiety disorders, and major depressive disorder. However, ELA is a very broad term, encompassing multiple types of negative childhood experiences, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, physical and emotional neglect, as well as trauma associated with chronic illness, family separation, natural disasters, accidents, and witnessing a violent crime. Emerging literature suggests that in humans, different types of adverse experiences are more or less likely to produce susceptibilities to certain conditions that involve affective dysfunction. To investigate the driving mechanisms underlying the connection between experience and subsequent disease, neuroscientists have developed several rodent models of ELA, including pain exposure, maternal deprivation, and limited resources. These studies have also shown that different types of ELA paradigms produce different but somewhat overlapping behavioral phenotypes. In this review, we first investigate the types of ELA that may be driving different neuropsychiatric outcomes and brain changes in humans. We next evaluate whether rodent models of ELA can provide translationally relevant information regarding links between specific types of experience and changes in neural circuits underlying dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number860847
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jun 23 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)


  • PTSD
  • amygdala
  • animal models
  • anxiety disorders
  • childhood maltreatment
  • hippocampus
  • major depressive disorder
  • prefrontal cortex


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