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Childhood maltreatment and psychopathology affect brain development during adolescence

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2013, 00:00 authored by S Whittle, M Dennison, Nandi VijayakumarNandi Vijayakumar, J G Simmons, M Yücel, D I Lubman, C Pantelis, N B Allen
Objective The hippocampus and amygdala have received much attention with regard to the deleterious effects of childhood maltreatment. However, it is not known if and when these effects emerge during adolescence and whether comorbid psychopathology is more likely to explain these effects. This study investigated whether childhood maltreatment was associated with hippocampal and amygdala development from early to midadolescence and whether the experience of psychopathology during this period mediated the relation. Method One hundred seventeen (60 male) adolescents, recruited as part of a broader adolescent development study, participated in magnetic resonance imaging assessments during early and midadolescence (mean age at baseline 12.62 years, SD 0.44 years; mean follow-up period 3.78 years, SD 0.20 years), and completed self-report measurements of childhood maltreatment and diagnostic interviews assessing DSM-IV mental disorders. Results Childhood maltreatment was associated with larger baseline left hippocampal volumes and retarded growth of the left amygdala over time and was indirectly associated, through the experience of psychopathology, with retarded growth of the left hippocampus and accelerated growth of the left amygdala over time. Exploratory cortical analysis showed that maltreatment influenced thickening of the superior parietal region through the experience of psychopathology. Conclusions Childhood maltreatment was associated with altered brain development during adolescence. The experience of Axis I psychopathology during adolescence may be one mechanism by which childhood maltreatment has continuing effects on brain development during the adolescent years. These findings highlight the importance of early intervention for individuals who have experienced childhood maltreatment.



Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry






940 - 952.e1




Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2013, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry