Researchers at The Ohio State University conducted a study to explore early-life stress and childhood head injuries on later-life health and behavior. In an animal experiment involving rats, the researchers found that early-life stress had a more of significant impact on gene activation in the brain than a traumatic head injury. They stated that stress-induced changes in gene expression were greater than those resulting from a concussion-like injury. They also stated that early-life stress may have a lasting influence on brain development, potentially leading to a lifetime of health consequences.
The researchers set up an experiment with newborn rats where they were simulated adverse childhood experiences and then later caused head injuries as part of the experiment. The results showed that stress and traumatic brain injury affected pathways associated with neural plasticity and oxytocin signaling. This suggests potential vulnerabilities and changes in the brain's response to stress. When adulthood approaches the rats that have experienced early-life stress exhibited riskier behavior. Which includes entering open spaces more frequently also correlating with patterns seen in humans with conditions like ADHD. The study shows the importance of addressing early-life stressors and instituting supportive measures to alleviate enduring impacts on mental health and behavior.