Stress and prefrontal cortical plasticity in the developing brain

Bryan Kolb, Allonna Harker, Richelle Mychasiuk, Silvana R. de Melo, Robbin Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


There is a large literature showing that stress in adulthood induces the production of stress hormones leading to a modulation of brain function, which is accomplished, in part, by changing the structure of neurons, especially in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, and these changes are correlated with behavioral change. Here we review the effects of preconception, gestational, and bystander gestational stress, as well as maternal separation on prefrontal cortex and behavioral development, largely in animal models. The general conclusion is that developmental stressors modify the organization of the prefrontal cortex in adulthood with results varying according to age at stress and region measured. It is likely that all of these stress effects are mediated by (re)programming of later gene activity in the brains of the offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalCognitive Development
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Brain plasticity
  • Cerebral development
  • Epigenetics
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Stress

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