Hormone Effects on Human Fetal Development
Prenatal Programming, Cortisol
The evidence that phenotype is set partially based on prenatal hormonal exposure is overall strong. Such effects make sense within the evolutionary psychology framework.
Hormone levels that a developing fetus experiences can result in long-lasting phenotypic differences in the individual. Because the maternal blood supply is the route by which a fetus will be exposed, mother’s levels – and her experiences – can affect development.
High levels of stress during pregnancy result in higher levels of the hormone cortisol as does exogenous ingestion of certain medicines (e.g., steroids) or certain foods (i.e., licorice). In any case, there is evidence that exposure of the fetus during prenatal development will alter early programming, causing differences in metabolism and other physiological parameters. The effects are long term or permanent. Combined with experimental methods employing animal models (see Weinstock 2008), there is converging evidence...
KeywordsEvolutionary Psychology Hormonal Exposure Excess Cortisol Hormone Cortisol Psychology Framework
- Buss, C., Poggi-Davis, E., Shahbaba, B., Pruessner, J. C., Head, J., & Sandman, C. A. (2012). Maternal cortisol over the course of pregnancy and subsequent child amygdala and hippocampus volumes and affective problems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 1312–1319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar