Sensitive Periods in Affective Development: Nonlinear Maturation of Fear Learning

Catherine A. Hartley, Francis S. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


At specific maturational stages, neural circuits enter sensitive periods of heightened plasticity, during which the development of both brain and behavior are highly receptive to particular experiential information. A relatively advanced understanding of the regulatory mechanisms governing the initiation, closure, and reinstatement of sensitive period plasticity has emerged from extensive research examining the development of the visual system. In this article, we discuss a large body of work characterizing the pronounced nonlinear changes in fear learning and extinction that occur from childhood through adulthood, and their underlying neural substrates. We draw upon the model of sensitive period regulation within the visual system, and present burgeoning evidence suggesting that parallel mechanisms may regulate the qualitative changes in fear learning across development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-60
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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