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Evolutionary functions of early social modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis development in humans.
Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Jun; 35(7):1611-29.NB

Abstract

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) is highly responsive to social challenges. Because stress hormones can have negative developmental and health consequences, this presents an evolutionary paradox: Why would natural selection have favored mechanisms that elevate stress hormone levels in response to psychosocial stimuli? Here we review the hypothesis that large brains, an extended childhood and intensive family care in humans are adaptations resulting from selective forces exerted by the increasingly complex and dynamic social and cultural environment that co-evolved with these traits. Variations in the modulation of stress responses mediated by specific HPAA characteristics (e.g., baseline cortisol levels, and changes in cortisol levels in response to challenges) are viewed as phenotypically plastic, ontogenetic responses to specific environmental signals. From this perspective, we discuss relations between physiological stress responses and life history trajectories, particularly the development of social competencies. We present brief summaries of data on hormones, indicators of morbidity and social environments from our long-term, naturalistic studies in both Guatemala and Dominica. Results indicate that difficult family environments and traumatic social events are associated with temporal elevations of cortisol, suppressed reproductive functioning and elevated morbidity. The long-term effects of traumatic early experiences on cortisol profiles are complex and indicate domain-specific effects, with normal recovery from physical stressors, but some heightened response to negative-affect social challenges. We consider these results to be consistent with the hypothesis that developmental programming of the HPAA and other neuroendocrine systems associated with stress responses may facilitate cognitive targeting of salient social challenges in specific environments.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri, 107 Swallow Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. flinnm@missouri.eduNo affiliation info availableNo affiliation info availableNo affiliation info available

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
Review

Language

eng

PubMed ID

21251923

Citation

Flinn, Mark V., et al. "Evolutionary Functions of Early Social Modulation of Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal Axis Development in Humans." Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, vol. 35, no. 7, 2011, pp. 1611-29.
Flinn MV, Nepomnaschy PA, Muehlenbein MP, et al. Evolutionary functions of early social modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis development in humans. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011;35(7):1611-29.
Flinn, M. V., Nepomnaschy, P. A., Muehlenbein, M. P., & Ponzi, D. (2011). Evolutionary functions of early social modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis development in humans. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35(7), 1611-29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.01.005
Flinn MV, et al. Evolutionary Functions of Early Social Modulation of Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal Axis Development in Humans. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011;35(7):1611-29. PubMed PMID: 21251923.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Evolutionary functions of early social modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis development in humans. AU - Flinn,Mark V, AU - Nepomnaschy,Pablo A, AU - Muehlenbein,Michael P, AU - Ponzi,Davide, Y1 - 2011/01/18/ PY - 2010/06/28/received PY - 2010/12/17/revised PY - 2011/01/05/accepted PY - 2011/1/22/entrez PY - 2011/1/22/pubmed PY - 2011/9/29/medline SP - 1611 EP - 29 JF - Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews JO - Neurosci Biobehav Rev VL - 35 IS - 7 N2 - The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) is highly responsive to social challenges. Because stress hormones can have negative developmental and health consequences, this presents an evolutionary paradox: Why would natural selection have favored mechanisms that elevate stress hormone levels in response to psychosocial stimuli? Here we review the hypothesis that large brains, an extended childhood and intensive family care in humans are adaptations resulting from selective forces exerted by the increasingly complex and dynamic social and cultural environment that co-evolved with these traits. Variations in the modulation of stress responses mediated by specific HPAA characteristics (e.g., baseline cortisol levels, and changes in cortisol levels in response to challenges) are viewed as phenotypically plastic, ontogenetic responses to specific environmental signals. From this perspective, we discuss relations between physiological stress responses and life history trajectories, particularly the development of social competencies. We present brief summaries of data on hormones, indicators of morbidity and social environments from our long-term, naturalistic studies in both Guatemala and Dominica. Results indicate that difficult family environments and traumatic social events are associated with temporal elevations of cortisol, suppressed reproductive functioning and elevated morbidity. The long-term effects of traumatic early experiences on cortisol profiles are complex and indicate domain-specific effects, with normal recovery from physical stressors, but some heightened response to negative-affect social challenges. We consider these results to be consistent with the hypothesis that developmental programming of the HPAA and other neuroendocrine systems associated with stress responses may facilitate cognitive targeting of salient social challenges in specific environments. SN - 1873-7528 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/21251923/Evolutionary_functions_of_early_social_modulation_of_hypothalamic_pituitary_adrenal_axis_development_in_humans_ DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -