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Traumatic stress and the autonomic brain-gut connection in development: Polyvagal Theory as an integrative framework for psychosocial and gastrointestinal pathology. Dev Psychobiol 2019 Jul;61(5):796-809



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85063888467 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   54 Citations


A range of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder frequently co-occur with functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Risk of these pathologies is particularly high in those with a history of trauma, abuse, and chronic stress. These scientific findings and rising awareness within the healthcare profession give rise to a need for an integrative framework to understand the developmental mechanisms that give rise to these observations. In this paper, we introduce a plausible explanatory framework, based on the Polyvagal Theory (Porges, Psychophysiology, 32, 301-318, 1995; Porges, International Journal of Psychophysiology, 42, 123-146, 2001; Porges, Biological Psychology, 74, 116-143, 2007), which describes how evolution impacted the structure and function of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The Polyvagal Theory provides organizing principles for understanding the development of adaptive diversity in homeostatic, threat-response, and psychosocial functions that contribute to pathology. Using these principles, we outline possible mechanisms that promote and maintain socioemotional and GI dysfunction and review their implications for therapeutic targets.

Author List

Kolacz J, Kovacic KK, Porges SW


Katja K. Karrento MD Associate Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Autonomic Nervous System
Gastrointestinal Tract
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Vagus Nerve