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Childhood emotional maltreatment (CEM) has been associated with disturbances in emotional and behavioral functioning, and with changes in regional brain morphology. However, whether CEM has any effect on the intrinsic organization of the brain is not known. In this study, we investigated the effects of CEM on resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) using seeds in the limbic network, the default-mode network (DMN) and the salience network, and the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC).
Using 3-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), resting-state functional MRI (RS-fMRI) scans were obtained. We defined seeds in the bilateral amygdala, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the left dmPFC, and used these to examine whether individuals reporting CEM (n=44) differed from individuals reporting no CEM (n=44) in RSFC with other brain regions. The two groups were matched for age, gender, handedness and the presence of psychopathology.
CEM was associated with decreased RSFC between the right amygdala and the bilateral precuneus and a cluster extending from the left insula to the hippocampus and putamen. In addition, CEM was associated with decreased RSFC between the dACC and the precuneus and also frontal regions of the brain.
We found that CEM has a profound effect on RSFC in the limbic network and the salience network. Regions that show aberrant connectivity are related to episodic memory encoding, retrieval and self-processing operations.
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