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Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms Are Associated With Different Trajectories of Cortical Development During Late Childhood

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2020, 00:00 authored by S Whittle, Nandi VijayakumarNandi Vijayakumar, J G Simmons, N B Allen
© 2019 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Objective: Investigation of neurobiological differences between internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children is needed to better understand the unique pathophysiology of each, which may ultimately better target treatments and interventions. Longitudinal studies are critical, given the marked brain development that occurs in childhood; however, few such studies exist, and results are inconsistent. The aim of this study was to longitudinally investigate associations between internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and cortical thinning during late childhood. Method: Participants were 105 children (49 male) from the community, who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, and completed questionnaire measures of depressive and anxiety symptoms at two time points (mean age: 8.4 years at baseline, 10.0 years at follow-up); and, mothers, who reported on child internalizing and externalizing symptoms at both time points. Whole-brain vertex-wise regression analyses were performed to assess associations between change in cortical thickness and symptoms between baseline and follow-up. Results: Increases in internalizing symptoms over time were associated with reduced thinning in the orbitofrontal cortex, whereas increases in externalizing symptoms were associated with reduced thinning in the postcentral gyrus. The interaction between internalizing and externalizing symptom change was not associated with cortical thinning. Conclusion: Results suggest that the development of internalizing and externalizing symptoms are associated with unique neurodevelopmental patterns in late childhood, potentially implicating differential deficits in affective reactivity, emotion regulation, and social cognition. Further research is required to elucidate the implications of these patterns for ongoing brain development, psychopathology, and behavior.



Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry






177 - 185




Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal