Adversity occurring early in development can have severe and lasting impact when the brain is particularly sensitive. When periods of sensitivity or malleability begin to close, later in development, the effects of these adversities require special attention for possible amelioration. The brain is now recognized as a malleable and vulnerable organ of the body, capable of adaptive plasticity but also vulnerable to damage at any stage of life.
Although one cannot “turn back the clock”, opening windows of plasticity in the developing, adult and aging brain is a major challenge in order to facilitate compensatory changes to overcome the consequences of severe adversity, including poverty. Of special interest are the possible long-term damaging effects of adversity on heath promoting life style and on cognitive preservation across adulthood. The long line of causal links from adversity to rapid cognitive aging remains difficult to trace. This has prompted the search for “intermediate nodes of causality” that may in turn be linked mechanistically from adversity to life styles undermining health and to rapid cognitive aging.
Possible candidates for “intermediate nodes” are being be considered. One important example is the combination of central obesity, dyslipidemia (raised triglycerides, reduced HDL cholesterol), leptin resistance, elevated fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance in brain and body.