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Trait dissociation has not been examined from a structural human brain mapping perspective in healthy adults or children. Non-pathological dissociation shares some features with daydreaming and mind-wandering, but also involves subtle disruptions in affect and autobiographical memory.
To identify neurostructural biomarkers of trait dissociation in healthy children.
Typically developing 9- to 15-year-olds (n = 180) without psychological or behavioural disorders were enrolled in the Developmental Chronnecto-Genomics (DevCoG) study of healthy brain development and completed psychological assessments of trauma exposure and dissociation, along with a structural T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging. We conducted univariate ANCOVA generalised linear models for each region of the default mode network examining the effects of trait dissociation, including scanner site, age, gender and trauma as covariates and correcting for multiple comparison.
We found that the precuneus was significantly larger in children with higher levels of trait dissociation but this was not related to trauma exposure. The inferior parietal volume was smaller in children with higher levels of trauma but was not related to dissociation. No other regions of interest, including frontal and limbic structures, were significantly related to trait dissociation even before multiple comparison correction.
Trait dissociation reflects subtle cognitive disruptions worthy of study in healthy people and warrants study as a potential risk factor for psychopathology. This neurostructural study of trait dissociation in healthy children identified the precuneus as an essential brain region to consider in future dissociation research.
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