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PhD ceremony Ms. C.M. Coppens: Development of aggression and impulsivity: modulation by adolescent social stress?

When:Mo 03-06-2013 at 14:30

PhD ceremony: Ms. C.M. Coppens, 14.30 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Development of aggression and impulsivity: modulation by adolescent social stress?

Promotor(s): prof. J.M. Koolhaas

Faculty: Mathematics an Natural Sciences

The aim of the research of Caroline Coppens was to study the interaction between personality and the social environment during adolescence on adult social behavior in rats. Affective disorders have a major impact on the life of millions of people worldwide. Adverse social experiences early in life are known predictors of the development of psychopathology later in life. Especially the development of depressive and anxiety disorders due to early life stress is well recognized. However, the effects of early life stress on the development of antisocial personality disorders and the expression of violent behavior is far less studied.

Attention problems and impulsivity are personality characteristics that may be important in the transition of aggressive behavior into violence. These characteristics are related to poor functioning of the prefrontal cortex, the brain area that is involved in inhibition of behavior. The prefrontal cortex is undergoing major changes during adolescence. Disturbance of the development by adolescent social stress may play a key role in the development of violent behavior.

Coppens's studies show that adolescent social defeat leads to changes in the prefrontal cortex and disturbance of development of aggressive and impulsive behavior. Furthermore, impulsivity appears to be an important factor in the development of violence.

The studies of Coppens support the idea that social stress during adolescence makes some individuals more vulnerable to psychopathology. However, other individuals are doing better under stressful conditions after a previous experience with social stress. Therefore, it is important to study not only psychopathology due to exposure to stress, but also why some individuals are more resilient and under which conditions.

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