Developmental stress and social phenotypes: integrating neuroendocrine, behavioural and evolutionary perspectives

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Abstract

The social world is filled with different types of interactions, and social experience interacts with stress on several different levels. Activation of the neuroendocrine axis that regulates the response to stress can have consequences for innumerable behavioural responses, including social decision-making and aspects of sociality, such as gregariousness and aggression. This is especially true for stress experienced during early life, when physiological systems are developing and highly sensitive to perturbation. Stress at this time can have persistent effects on social behaviours into adulthood. One important question remaining is to what extent these effects are adaptive. This paper initially reviews the current literature investigating the complex relationships between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and other neuroendocrine systems and several aspects of social behaviour in vertebrates. In addition, the review explores the evidence surrounding the potential for ‘social programming’ via differential development and activation of the HPA axis, providing an insight into the potential for positive effects on fitness following early life stress. Finally, the paper provides a framework from which novel investigations could work to fully understand the adaptive significance of early life effects on social behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160242
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Volume372
Early online date3 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2017

Keywords

  • Glucocorticoids
  • Neuroendocrinology
  • Developmental programming
  • Environmental matching
  • Affiliative behaviours
  • Non-apeptides

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