Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 196–203

Impact of early vs. late childhood early life stress on brain morphometrics

  • Laurie M. Baker
  • Leanne M. Williams
  • Mayuresh S. Korgaonkar
  • Ronald A. Cohen
  • Jodi M. Heaps
  • Robert H. Paul
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s11682-012-9215-y

Cite this article as:
Baker, L.M., Williams, L.M., Korgaonkar, M.S. et al. Brain Imaging and Behavior (2013) 7: 196. doi:10.1007/s11682-012-9215-y

Abstract

Previous studies of early life trauma suggest that in addition to its emotional impact, exposure to early life stress (ELS) is associated with alterations in brain structure. However, little attention has been devoted to the relationship between emotional processing and brain integrity as a function of age of ELS onset. In the present study we examined whether ELS onset in older ages of youth rather than younger ages is associated with smaller limbic and basal ganglia volumes as measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We hypothesized that later age of manifestation during youth is associated with smaller volumetric morphology in limbic and basal ganglia volumes in adulthood. A total of 173 individuals were divided into three groups based on the age of self-reported ELS. The three groups included individuals only experiencing early childhood ELS (1 month–7 years, n = 38), those only experiencing later childhood ELS (8 years –17 years, n = 59), and those who have not experienced ELS (n = 76). Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus, amygdala, insula and caudate volumes were measured using a T1-weighted MRI. Analyses confirmed that later childhood ELS was associated with volumetric reductions in the ACC and insula volumes, while ELS experienced between the ages of 1 month and 7 years was not associated with lower brain volumes in these regions. The results may reflect the influence of more fully developed emotional processing of ELS on the developing brain and reinforce a body of research implicating both the ACC and insula in neuropsychiatric disorders and emotional regulation.

Keywords

Early life stress Brain morphometry Anterior cingulate cortex Caudate nucleus Amygdala Hippocampus 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurie M. Baker
    • 1
  • Leanne M. Williams
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mayuresh S. Korgaonkar
    • 2
  • Ronald A. Cohen
    • 4
  • Jodi M. Heaps
    • 1
  • Robert H. Paul
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Missouri, St. Louis, Department of Psychology- 1University BoulevardSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.The Brain Dynamics CenterUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Psychological MedicineBrain Resource CompanySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.The Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorBrown UniversityProvidenceNew England

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