Animals, including humans, require a highly coordinated and flexible system of social behavior and threat evaluation. However, trauma can disrupt this system, with the amygdala implicated as a mediator of these impairments in behavior. Recent evidence has further highlighted the context of infant trauma as a critical variable in determining its immediate and enduring consequences, with trauma experienced from an attachment figure, such as occurs in cases of caregiver-child maltreatment, as particularly detrimental. This review focuses on the unique role of caregiver presence during early-life trauma in programming deficits in social behavior and threat processing. Using data primarily from rodent models, we describe the interaction between trauma and attachment during a sensitive period in early life, which highlights the role of the caregiver's presence in engagement of attachment brain circuitry and suppressing threat processing by the amygdala. These data suggest that trauma experienced directly from an abusive caregiver and trauma experienced in the presence of caregiver cues produce similar neurobehavioral deficits, which are unique from those resulting from trauma alone. We go on to integrate this information into social experience throughout the lifespan, including consequences for complex scenarios, such as dominance hierarchy formation and maintenance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Dominance hierarchy
- Social behavior