Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 434-445 (June 2009) | doi:10.1038/nrn2639

Focus on: Stress

Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition

Sonia J. Lupien1, Bruce S. McEwen2, Megan R. Gunnar3 & Christine Heim4  About the authors


Chronic exposure to stress hormones, whether it occurs during the prenatal period, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood or aging, has an impact on brain structures involved in cognition and mental health. However, the specific effects on the brain, behaviour and cognition emerge as a function of the timing and the duration of the exposure, and some also depend on the interaction between gene effects and previous exposure to environmental adversity. Advances in animal and human studies have made it possible to synthesize these findings, and in this Review a model is developed to explain why different disorders emerge in individuals exposed to stress at different times in their lives.

Author affiliations

  1. Université de Montréal, Mental Health Research Centre, Fernand Seguin Hôpital Louis-H Lafontaine, Montreal, Quebec, H1N 3V2, Canada.
  2. Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA.
  3. Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.
  4. Department of Psychiatry, Emory University, 101 Woodruff Circle, Suite 4000, Atlanta, Georgia 30307, USA.

Correspondence to: Sonia J. Lupien1 Email:

Published online 29 April 2009


These links to content published by NPG are automatically generated.


How adversity gets under the skin

Nature Neuroscience News and Views (01 Mar 2009)

A chilled-out knockout

Nature Genetics News and Views (01 Jun 1998)

See all 3 matches for News And Views