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Childhood maltreatment is associated with altered neural reactivity during autobiographical memory (ABM) recall and a pattern of overgeneral memory (OGM). Altered ABM and OGM have been linked with psychopathology and poorer social functioning. The present study investigated the association between altered ABM and subsequent socio-emotional functioning (measured two years later) in a sample of adolescents with (N = 20; maltreatment group, MT) and without (N = 17; non-MT group) documented childhood maltreatment histories.
At baseline, adolescents (aged 12.6 ± 1.45 years) were administered the Autobiographical Memory Test to measure OGM. Participants also recalled specific ABMs in response to emotionally valenced cue words during functional MRI. Adolescents in both groups underwent assessments measuring depressive symptoms and prosocial behavior at both timepoints. Regression analyses were carried out to predict outcome measures at follow-up controlling for baseline levels.
In the MT group, greater OGM at baseline significantly predicted reduced prosocial behavior at follow-up and showed a trend level association with elevated depressive symptoms. Patterns of altered ABM-related brain activity did not significantly predict future psycho-social functioning.
The current findings highlight the potential value of OGM as a cognitive mechanism that could be targeted to reduce risk of depression in adolescents with prior histories of maltreatment.
Altered autobiographical memory (ABM) functioning has been implicated in the pathogenesis of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder and may represent one mechanism by which childhood maltreatment elevates psychiatric risk.
To investigate the impact of childhood maltreatment on ABM functioning.
Thirty-four children with documented maltreatment and 33 matched controls recalled specific ABMs in response to emotionally valenced cue words during functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Children with maltreatment experience showed reduced hippocampal and increased middle temporal and parahippocampal activation during positive ABM recall compared with peers. During negative ABM recall they exhibited increased amygdala activation, and greater amygdala connectivity with the salience network.
Childhood maltreatment is associated with altered ABM functioning, specifically reduced activation in areas encoding specification of positive memories, and greater activation of the salience network for negative memories. This pattern may confer latent vulnerability to future depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.
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