Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 April 2017
This study examined whether the association between age and amygdala–medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connectivity in typically developing 6- to 10-year-old children is correlated with parental care. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scans were acquired from 124 children of the Generation R Study who at 4 years old had been observed interacting with their parents to assess maternal and paternal sensitivity. Amygdala functional connectivity was assessed using a general linear model with the amygdalae time series as explanatory variables. Higher level analyses assessing Sensitivity × Age as well as exploratory Sensitivity × Age × Gender interaction effects were performed restricted to voxels in the mPFC. We found significant Sensitivity × Age interaction effects on amygdala–mPFC connectivity. Age was related to stronger amygdala–mPFC connectivity in children with a lower combined parental sensitivity score (b = 0.11, p = .004, b = 0.06, p = .06, right and left amygdala, respectively), but not in children with a higher parental sensitivity score, (b = –0.07, p = .12, b = –0.06, p = .12, right and left amygdala, respectively). A similar effect was found for maternal sensitivity, with stronger amygdala–mPFC connectivity in children with less sensitive mothers. Exploratory (parental, maternal, paternal) Sensitivity × Age × Gender interaction analyses suggested that this effect was especially pronounced in girls. Amygdala-mPFC resting-state functional connectivity has been shown to increase from age 10.5 years onward, implying that the positive association between age and amygdala–mPFC connectivity in 6- to 10-year-old children of less sensitive parents represents accelerated development of the amygdala–mPFC circuit.
The Generation R Study is conducted by the Erasmus Medical Center in close collaboration with the Erasmus University Rotterdam, School of Law and Faculty of Social Sciences; the Municipal Health Service Rotterdam area, Rotterdam; the Rotterdam Homecare Foundation, Rotterdam; and the Stichting Trombosedienst & Artsenlaboratorium Rijnmond (STAR), Rotterdam. The first phase of the Generation R Study is made possible by financial support from Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam; Erasmus University, Rotterdam; the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw); the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research; the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; and the Ministry of Youth and Families. In addition, this study is financially supported through ZonMw TOP project number 91211021 (to T.W.). Henning Tiemer, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, and Marinus H. van IJzendoorn were supported by research awards from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (H.T., VIDI grant; M.H.v.I., SPINOZA prize; M.J.B.K., VICI grant), and by the Gravitation program of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Grant 024.001.003). Bakermans-Kranenburg was also supported by the European Research Council (ERC AdG).
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