Category: Bipolar Disorders

Symposium

Early-Life Adversity and Physical and Emotional Health Across the Life Span: A Neuroimmune Network Hypothesis

Friday, November 17
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Aqua 300 A & B, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Neuroscience | Health Psychology | Mood
Presentation Type: Symposium

Children who experience chronic stressors are vulnerable to mood disorders (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder) and physical health problems across the lifespan. This phenomenon raises questions for scientists and clinicians alike. How does adversity get under the skin? And how does it instantiate risk across different life stages, engendering vulnerability to conditions that develop shortly after stressor exposure—like mood disorders—and conditions that manifest decades later, like heart disease? Although answers to these questions have started to emerge, research has typically focused on single diseases or organ systems. To understand the plethora of health problems associated with childhood adversity, we argue that the field needs a second generation of research that recognizes multidirectional transactions among biological systems. To help facilitate this process, this talk presents a neuroimmune network hypothesis (Nusslock & Miller, in press, Biological Psychiatry) as a framework for organizing knowledge from disparate literatures and as a springboard for generating integrative research. Drawing on existing data, we argue that early-life adversity amplifies crosstalk between peripheral inflammation and neural circuitries subserving threat-related, reward-related, and executive control-related processes. This crosstalk results in chronic low-grade inflammation, thereby contributing to adiposity, insulin resistance, and other predisease states. In the brain, inflammatory mediators act on threat and reward, circuitries in a manner that predisposes individuals to self medicating behaviors like drug use and high-fat diets. Acting in concert with inflammation, these behaviors accelerate the pathogenesis of emotional and physical health problems. Epidemiological, neurobiological, and immunological data supporting the neuroimmune network hypothesis will be presented. 

Robin Nusslock

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Northwestern University

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