Neurobehavioral Foundation of Environmental Reactivity

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Abstract

Sensitivity to environmental context has been of interest for many years, but the nature of individual differences in environmental sensitivity has become of particular focus over the past 2 decades. What is particularly uncertain are the neural variables and processes that mediate the effects of environment on developmental outcomes. Accordingly, we provide a neurobehavioral foundation of reactivity to the environment in several steps. First, the different patterns of environmental sensitivity are defined to identify the significant factors involved in the manifestation of these patterns. Second, we focus on neurobiological reactivity as the construct underlying variation in sensitivity to the environment by (a) providing an organizing threshold model of elicitation of neurobiology by environmental context; and (b) integrating the literature on 2 sets of neuromodulators in terms of each modulator’s (a) contribution to neural and behavioral reactivity to stimulation, and (b) relation to emotional-motivational systems (dopamine, opiates and oxytocin, corticotropin-releasing hormone) or the general modulation of those systems (serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA). Discussion concludes with (a) a comprehensive neurobehavioral framework of environmental reactivity based on a combinatorial model of a supertrait, (b) methodological implications of the model, and (c) a developmental perspective on environmental reactivity.

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