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Despite the strong link between childhood maltreatment and psychopathology, the underlying neurodevelopmental mechanisms are poorly understood and difficult to disentangle from heritable and prenatal factors. This study used a translational macaque model of infant maltreatment in which the adverse experience occurs in the first months of life, during intense maturation of amygdala circuits important for stress and emotional regulation. Thus, we examined the developmental impact of maltreatment on amygdala functional connectivity (FC) longitudinally, from infancy through the juvenile period. Using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) we performed amygdala–prefrontal cortex (PFC) region-of-interest and exploratory whole-brain amygdala FC analyses. The latter showed (a) developmental increases in amygdala FC with many regions, likely supporting increased processing of socioemotional-relevant stimuli with age; and (b) maltreatment effects on amygdala coupling with arousal and stress brain regions (locus coeruleus, laterodorsal tegmental area) that emerged with age. Maltreated juveniles showed weaker FC than controls, which was negatively associated with infant hair cortisol concentrations. Findings from the region-of-interest analysis also showed weaker amygdala FC with PFC regions in maltreated animals than controls since infancy, whereas bilateral amygdala FC was stronger in maltreated animals. These effects on amygdala FC development may underlie the poor behavioral outcomes associated with this adverse experience.
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