Plenary Session: The Effects of Early Adversity on the Mind and Brain

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Over the past 20 years, we’ve learned that early adversity has surprisingly broad and long-lasting effects on adult life. Children who experience more adversity are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as adults. Early adversity even makes physical diseases like heart disease and cancer more likely, as well as affecting income and education levels. The practical importance of these results is clear—improving the lives of children is one of the best investments we can make. But the mechanisms that lead to these effects are still mysterious—why would witnessing gun violence when you are five make you more likely to develop depression at 35 or heart disease at 55? In this symposium, experts in psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology present cutting-edge theoretical ideas and empirical results that may help explain just how early adversity influences the developing mind and brain.

Chair: APS President Alison Gopnik, University of California, Berkeley


Seth Pollak, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Allyson P. Mackey, University of Pennsylvania

Willem Frankenhuis, Radboud University, Netherlands

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