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The effects of childhood maltreatment on cortical thickness and gray matter volume: a coordinate-based meta-analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 March 2023

Wei Yang
Department of Psychiatry, Shandong Daizhuang Hospital, Jining, China
Shushu Jin
Department of Psychology, Affiliated Hospital of Jining Medical University, Jining, China
Weiwei Duan
School of Mental Health, Jining Medical University, Jining, China
Hao Yu
School of Mental Health, Jining Medical University, Jining, China
Liangliang Ping
Department of Psychiatry, Xiamen Xianyue Hospital, Xiamen, China
Zonglin Shen
Department of Psychiatry, The First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, Kunming, China
Yuqi Cheng
Department of Psychiatry, The First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, Kunming, China
Xiufeng Xu
Department of Psychiatry, The First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, Kunming, China
Cong Zhou*
Department of Psychology, Affiliated Hospital of Jining Medical University, Jining, China School of Mental Health, Jining Medical University, Jining, China
Author for correspondence: Cong Zhou, E-mail:


Childhood maltreatment has been suggested to have an adverse impact on neurodevelopment, including microstructural brain abnormalities. Existing neuroimaging findings remain inconsistent and heterogeneous. We aim to explore the most prominent and robust cortical thickness (CTh) and gray matter volume (GMV) alterations associated with childhood maltreatment. A systematic search on relevant studies was conducted through September 2022. The whole-brain coordinate-based meta-analysis (CBMA) on CTh and GMV studies were conducted using the seed-based d mapping (SDM) software. Meta-regression analysis was subsequently applied to investigate potential associations between clinical variables and structural changes. A total of 45 studies were eligible for inclusion, including 11 datasets on CTh and 39 datasets on GMV, consisting of 2550 participants exposed to childhood maltreatment and 3739 unexposed comparison subjects. Individuals with childhood maltreatment exhibited overlapped deficits in the median cingulate/paracingulate gyri simultaneously revealed by both CTh and GM studies. Regional cortical thinning in the right anterior cingulate/paracingulate gyri and the left middle frontal gyrus, as well as GMV reductions in the left supplementary motor area (SMA) was also identified. No greater regions were found for either CTh or GMV. In addition, several neural morphology changes were associated with the average age of the maltreated individuals. The median cingulate/paracingulate gyri morphology might serve as the most robust neuroimaging feature of childhood maltreatment. The effects of early-life trauma on the human brain predominantly involved in cognitive functions, socio-affective functioning and stress regulation. This current meta-analysis enhanced the understanding of neuropathological changes induced by childhood maltreatment.

Review Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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