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Childhood maltreatment (CM) plays an important role in the development of major depressive disorder (MDD). The aim of this study was to examine whether CM severity and type are associated with MDD-related brain alterations, and how they interact with sex and age.
Within the ENIGMA-MDD network, severity and subtypes of CM using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were assessed and structural magnetic resonance imaging data from patients with MDD and healthy controls were analyzed in a mega-analysis comprising a total of 3872 participants aged between 13 and 89 years. Cortical thickness and surface area were extracted at each site using FreeSurfer.
CM severity was associated with reduced cortical thickness in the banks of the superior temporal sulcus and supramarginal gyrus as well as with reduced surface area of the middle temporal lobe. Participants reporting both childhood neglect and abuse had a lower cortical thickness in the inferior parietal lobe, middle temporal lobe, and precuneus compared to participants not exposed to CM. In males only, regardless of diagnosis, CM severity was associated with higher cortical thickness of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex. Finally, a significant interaction between CM and age in predicting thickness was seen across several prefrontal, temporal, and temporo-parietal regions.
Severity and type of CM may impact cortical thickness and surface area. Importantly, CM may influence age-dependent brain maturation, particularly in regions related to the default mode network, perception, and theory of mind.
Childhood maltreatment, including abuse and neglect, may have sustained effects on the integrity and functioning of the brain, alter neurophysiological responsivity later in life, and predispose individuals toward psychiatric conditions involving socioaffective disturbances. This meta-analysis aims to quantify associations between self-reported childhood maltreatment and brain function in response to socioaffective cues in adults. Seventeen functional magnetic resonance imaging studies reporting on data from 848 individuals examined with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were included in a meta-analysis of whole-brain findings, or a review of region of interest findings. The spatial consistency of peak activations associated with maltreatment exposure was tested using activation likelihood estimation, using a threshold of p < .05 corrected for multiple comparisons. Adults exposed to childhood maltreatment showed significantly increased activation in the left superior frontal gyrus and left middle temporal gyrus, and decreased activation in the left superior parietal lobule and the left hippocampus. Although hyperresponsivity to socioaffective cues in the amygdala and ventral anterior cingulate cortex in correlation with maltreatment severity is a replicated finding in region of interest studies, null results are reported as well. The findings suggest that childhood maltreatment has sustained effects on brain function into adulthood, and highlight potential mechanisms for conveying vulnerability to development of psychopathology.
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