Enhanced prefrontal-amygdala connectivity following childhood adversity as a protective mechanism against internalizing in adolescence.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Much research has focused on the deleterious neurobiological effects of childhood adversity that may underlie internalizing disorders. While most youth show emotional adaptation following adversity, the corresponding neural mechanisms remain poorly understood. METHODS:In this longitudinal community study, we examined the associations among childhood family adversity, adolescent internalizing symptoms, and their interaction on regional brain activation and amygdala/hippocampus functional connectivity during emotion processing in 132 adolescents. RESULTS:Consistent with prior work, childhood adversity predicted heightened amygdala reactivity to negative, but not positive, images in adolescence. However, amygdala reactivity was not related to internalizing symptoms. Furthermore, childhood adversity predicted increased fronto-amygdala connectivity to negative, but not positive, images, yet only in lower internalizing adolescents. Childhood adversity also predicted increased fronto-hippocampal connectivity to negative images, but was not moderated by internalizing. These findings were unrelated to adolescence adversity or externalizing symptoms, suggesting specificity to childhood adversity and adolescent internalizing. CONCLUSIONS:Together, these findings suggest that adaptation to childhood adversity is associated with augmentation of fronto-subcortical circuits specifically for negative emotional stimuli. Conversely, insufficient enhancement of fronto-amygdala connectivity, with increasing amygdala reactivity, may represent a neural signature of vulnerability for internalizing by late adolescence. These findings implicate early childhood as a critical period in determining the brain's adaptation to adversity, and suggest that even normative adverse experiences can have significant impact on neurodevelopment and functioning. These results offer potential neural mechanisms of adaptation and vulnerability which could be used in the prediction of risk for psychopathology following childhood adversity.
Project description:Maltreatment during childhood is a major risk factor for anxiety and depression, which are major public health problems. However, the underlying brain mechanism linking maltreatment and internalizing disorders remains poorly understood. Maltreatment may alter the activation of fear circuitry, but little is known about its impact on the connectivity of this circuitry in adolescence and whether such brain changes actually lead to internalizing symptoms. We examined the associations between experiences of maltreatment during childhood, resting-state functional brain connectivity (rs-FC) of the amygdala and hippocampus, and internalizing symptoms in 64 adolescents participating in a longitudinal community study. Childhood experiences of maltreatment were associated with lower hippocampus-subgenual cingulate rs-FC in both adolescent females and males and lower amygdala-subgenual cingulate rs-FC in females only. Furthermore, rs-FC mediated the association of maltreatment during childhood with adolescent internalizing symptoms. Thus, maltreatment in childhood, even at the lower severity levels found in a community sample, may alter the regulatory capacity of the brain's fear circuit, leading to increased internalizing symptoms by late adolescence. These findings highlight the importance of fronto-hippocampal connectivity for both sexes in internalizing symptoms following maltreatment in childhood. Furthermore, the impact of maltreatment during childhood on both fronto-amygdala and -hippocampal connectivity in females may help explain their higher risk for internalizing disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Biased attention to threat is found in both individuals with anxiety symptoms and children with the childhood temperament of behavioral inhibition (BI). Although perturbed fronto-amygdala function is implicated in biased attention among anxious individuals, no work has examined the neural correlates of attention biases in BI. Work in this area might clarify underlying mechanisms for anxiety in a sample at risk for internalizing disorders. We examined the relations among early childhood BI, fronto-amygdala connectivity during an attention bias task in young adulthood, and internalizing symptoms, assessed in young adulthood. METHODS:Children were assessed for BI at multiple age points from infancy through age seven. On the basis of a composite of observational and maternal report data, we selected 21 young adults classified as having a history of BI and 23 classified as non-BI for this study (n = 44). Participants completed an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging attention-bias task involving threat (angry faces) and neutral trials. Internalizing symptoms were assessed by self-report and diagnostic interviews. RESULTS:The young adults characterized in childhood with BI exhibited greater strength in threat-related connectivity than non-behaviorally inhibited young adults. Between-group differences manifested in connections between the amygdala and two frontal regions: dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior insula. Amygdala-insula connectivity also interacted with childhood BI to predict young adult internalizing symptoms. CONCLUSIONS:Behavioral inhibition during early childhood predicts differences as young adults in threat and attention-related fronto-amygdala connectivity. Connectivity strength, in turn, moderated the relations between early BI and later psychopathology.
Project description:Under typical conditions, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connections with the amygdala are immature during childhood and become adult-like during adolescence. Rodent models show that maternal deprivation accelerates this development, prompting examination of human amygdala-mPFC phenotypes following maternal deprivation. Previously institutionalized youths, who experienced early maternal deprivation, exhibited atypical amygdala-mPFC connectivity. Specifically, unlike the immature connectivity (positive amygdala-mPFC coupling) of comparison children, children with a history of early adversity evidenced mature connectivity (negative amygdala-mPFC coupling) and thus, resembled the adolescent phenotype. This connectivity pattern was mediated by the hormone cortisol, suggesting that stress-induced modifications of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis shape amygdala-mPFC circuitry. Despite being age-atypical, negative amygdala-mPFC coupling conferred some degree of reduced anxiety, although anxiety was still significantly higher in the previously institutionalized group. These findings suggest that accelerated amygdala-mPFC development is an ontogenetic adaptation in response to early adversity.
Project description:IMPORTANCE:Early adversity is an important risk factor that relates to internalizing symptoms and altered brain structure. OBJECTIVE:To assess the direct effects of early adversity and child internalizing symptoms (ie, depression, anxiety) on cortical gray matter (GM) volume, as well as the extent to which early adversity associates with variation in cortical GM volume indirectly via increased levels of internalizing symptoms. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:A prospective investigation of associations between adversity within the first 6 years of life, internalizing symptoms during childhood and early adolescence, and altered brain structure in late adolescence (age, 18-21 years) was conducted in a community-based birth cohort in England (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). Participants from the cohort included 494 mother-son pairs monitored since the mothers were pregnant (estimated date of delivery between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992). Data collection for the present study was conducted between April 1, 1991, and November 30, 2010; the neuroimaging data were collected between September 1, 2010, and November 30, 2012, and data analyses for the present study occurred between January 25, 2013, and February 15, 2015. Risk factors were adversity within the first 6 years of the child's life (including prenatal exposure) and the child's internalizing symptoms between age 7 and 13 years. EXPOSURES:Early childhood adversity. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:The main outcome was GM volume of cortical regions previously associated with major depression measured through T1-weighted magnetic resonance images collected in late adolescence. RESULTS:Among 494 young men included in this analysis, early adversity was directly associated with lower GM volumes in the anterior cingulate cortex (? =?-.18; P =?.01) and higher GM volume in the precuneus (? =?.18; P =?.009). Childhood internalizing symptoms were associated with lower GM volume in the right superior frontal gyrus (? =?-.20; P =?.002). Early adversity was also associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms (? =?.37; P <?.001), which, in turn, were associated with lower superior frontal gyrus volume (ie, an indirect effect) (? =?-.08; 95% CI, -0.14 to -0.01; P =?.02). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:Adversity early in life was associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms as well as with altered brain structure. Early adversity was related to variation in brain structure both directly and via increased levels of internalizing symptoms. These findings may suggest that some of the structural variation often attributed to depression might be associated with early adversity in addition to the effect of depression.
Project description:Background: Schizophrenia is currently considered a neurodevelopmental disorder of connectivity. Still few studies have investigated how brain networks develop in children and adolescents who are at risk for developing psychosis. 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11DS) offers a unique opportunity to investigate the pathogenesis of schizophrenia from a neurodevelopmental perspective. Structural covariance (SC) is a powerful approach to explore morphometric relations between brain regions that can furthermore detect biomarkers of psychosis, both in 22q11DS and in the general population. Methods: Here we implement a state-of-the-art sliding-window approach to characterize maturation of SC network architecture in a large longitudinal cohort of patients with 22q11DS (110 with 221 visits) and healthy controls (117 with 211 visits). We furthermore propose a new clustering-based approach to group regions according to trajectories of structural connectivity maturation. We correlate measures of SC with development of working memory, a core executive function that is highly affected in both idiopathic psychosis and 22q11DS. Finally, in 22q11DS we explore correlations between SC dysconnectivity and severity of internalizing psychopathology. Results: In HCs network architecture underwent a quadratic developmental trajectory maturing up to mid-adolescence. Late-childhood maturation was particularly evident for fronto-parietal cortices, while Default-Mode-Network-related regions showed a more protracted linear development. Working memory performance was positively correlated with network segregation and fronto-parietal connectivity. In 22q11DS, we demonstrate aberrant maturation of SC with disturbed architecture selectively emerging during adolescence and correlating more severe internalizing psychopathology. Patients also presented a lack of typical network development during late-childhood, that was particularly prominent for frontal connectivity. Conclusions: Our results suggest that SC maturation may underlie critical cognitive development occurring during late-childhood in healthy controls. Aberrant trajectories of SC maturation may reflect core developmental features of 22q11DS, including disturbed cognitive maturation during childhood and predisposition to internalizing psychopathology and psychosis during adolescence.
Project description:The amygdala is especially reactive to threatening stimuli, and the degree of reactivity predicts individual differences in the expression of depression and anxiety. Emerging research suggests that emotional neglect during childhood as well as hypercortisolemia may lead to heightened threat-related amygdala reactivity. This raises the possibility that genetic variation affecting hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function contributes to individual differences in amygdala reactivity, both independently and as a function of childhood emotional neglect.This study assessed whether the mineralocorticoid receptor iso/val polymorphism (rs5522), a functional genetic variant affecting HPA axis function, influenced threat-related amygdala reactivity in 279 individuals in late childhood and early adolescence. The study also explored the extent to which any effects of the genotype on amygdala reactivity were contingent upon previous childhood emotional neglect.Prior childhood emotional neglect and the val allele were associated with greater amygdala reactivity. Moreover, a significant genotype-by-emotional neglect interaction was observed whereby greater amygdala reactivity in val allele carriers was independent of previous childhood emotional neglect, while greater reactivity in iso homozygotes was revealed only in the context of a history of elevated emotional neglect. At relatively low levels of previous emotional neglect, val carriers had heightened amygdala reactivity relative to iso homozygotes.These results suggest that relatively greater amygdala reactivity may represent a biological mechanism through which childhood adversity and functional genetic variation in HPA axis responsiveness to stress may mediate risk for psychopathology.
Project description:Emotion regulation is a critical life skill that develops throughout childhood and adolescence. Despite this development in emotional processes, little is known about how the underlying brain systems develop with age. This study examined emotion regulation in 112 individuals (aged 6-23 years) as they viewed aversive and neutral images using a reappraisal task. On "reappraisal" trials, participants were instructed to view the images as distant, a strategy that has been previously shown to reduce negative affect. On "reactivity" trials, participants were instructed to view the images without regulating emotions to assess baseline emotional responding. During reappraisal, age predicted less negative affect, reduced amygdala responses and inverse coupling between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and amygdala. Moreover, left ventrolateral prefrontal (vlPFC) recruitment mediated the relationship between increasing age and diminishing amygdala responses. This negative vlPFC-amygdala association was stronger for individuals with inverse coupling between the amygdala and vmPFC. These data provide evidence that vmPFC-amygdala connectivity facilitates vlPFC-related amygdala modulation across development.
Project description:Mature amygdala-prefrontal circuitry regulates affect in adulthood but shows protracted development. In altricial and semialtricial species, caregivers provide potent affect regulation when mature neurocircuitry is absent. The present investigation examined a potential mechanism through which caregivers provide regulatory influences in childhood. Children, but not adolescents, showed evidence of maternal buffering, such that maternal stimuli suppressed amygdala reactivity. In the absence of maternal stimuli, children exhibited immature amygdala-prefrontal connectivity. However, in the presence of maternal stimuli, children's connectivity was more mature, resembling adolescents' connectivity. Children showed improved affect-related regulation in the presence of their mothers. Individual differences emerged, with greater maternal influence on amygdala-prefrontal circuitry associated with stronger mother-child relationships and maternal modulation of behavioral regulation. These findings suggest a neural mechanism through which caregivers modulate children's regulatory behavior by inducing more mature connectivity and buffering against heightened reactivity. Maternal buffering in childhood, but not adolescence, suggests that childhood may be a sensitive period for amygdala-prefrontal development.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Childhood adversity is strongly linked to negative mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety. Leveraging cognitive neuroscience to identify mechanisms that contribute to resilience in children with a history of maltreatment may provide viable intervention targets for the treatment or prevention of psychopathology. We present a conceptual model of a potential neurobiological mechanism of resilience to depression and anxiety following childhood adversity. Specifically, we argue that neural circuits underlying the cognitive control of emotion may promote resilience, wherein a child's ability to recruit the frontoparietal control network to modulate amygdala reactivity to negative emotional cues-such as during cognitive reappraisal-buffers risk for internalizing symptoms following exposure to adversity. METHODS:We provide preliminary support for this model of resilience in a longitudinal sample of 151 participants 8 to 17 years of age with (n = 79) and without (n = 72) a history of childhood maltreatment who completed a cognitive reappraisal task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. RESULTS:Among maltreated youths, those who were better able to recruit prefrontal control regions and modulate amygdala reactivity during reappraisal exhibited lower risk for depression over time. By contrast, no association was observed between neural functioning during reappraisal and depression among youths without a history of maltreatment. CONCLUSIONS:These preliminary findings support the hypothesis that children who are better able to regulate emotion through recruitment of the frontoparietal network exhibit greater resilience to depression following childhood maltreatment. Interventions targeting cognitive reappraisal and other cognitive emotion regulation strategies may have potential for reducing vulnerability to depression among children exposed to adversity.
Project description:A growing literature suggests that adversity is associated with later altered brain function, particularly within the corticolimbic system that supports emotion processing and salience detection (e.g., amygdala, prefrontal cortex [PFC]). Although neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage has been shown to predict maladaptive behavioral outcomes, particularly for boys, most of the research linking adversity to corticolimbic function has focused on family-level adversities. Moreover, although animal models and studies of normative brain development suggest that there may be sensitive periods during which adversity exerts stronger effects on corticolimbic development, little prospective evidence exists in humans. Using two low-income samples of boys (n = 167; n = 77), Census-derived neighborhood disadvantage during early childhood, but not adolescence, was uniquely associated with greater amygdala, but not PFC, reactivity to ambiguous neutral faces in adolescence and young adulthood. These associations remained after accounting for several family-level adversities (e.g., low family income, harsh parenting), highlighting the independent and developmentally specific neural effects of the neighborhood context. Furthermore, in both samples, indicators measuring income and poverty status of neighbors were predictive of amygdala function, suggesting that neighborhood economic resources may be critical to brain development.