Effects of childhood trauma on working memory in affective and non-affective psychotic disorders
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Childhood trauma is a significant risk factor for the development of psychotic disorders, and may influence executive brain functions. We thus set out to investigate the long-term effects of childhood trauma exposure on brain function of adult chronic patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and (psychotic) bipolar-I disorder while performing a standard 2/0-back working memory task. Participants were 50 cases diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder (SCZ), 42 cases with bipolar-I disorder (BD), and 47 healthy controls (HC). Among this sample, 56 clinical cases (SCZ = 32; BD = 24) and 17 HC reported significant levels of childhood trauma, while 36 clinical cases (SCZ = 18; BD = 18) and 30 HC did not. Effects of childhood trauma on working memory-related brain activation were examined in combined samples of clinical cases (independently of diagnosis) relative to HCs, as well as within each diagnostic category. Case–control analyses revealed increased activation of the left inferior parietal lobule as a main effect of trauma exposure. In addition, trauma exposure interacted with a diagnosis of SCZ or BD to reveal trauma-related increased activation in the cuneus in clinical cases and decreased activation in this region in controls. Disorder-specific functional alterations were also evident in the SCZ sample, but not BD. Childhood trauma exposure elicits aberrant function of parietal regions involved in working memory performance regardless of clinical status, as well as task-relevant visual regions that participates to attentional processes. Childhood trauma may therefore contribute to alterations in attention in SCZ and BD while performing an n-back working memory task.
KeywordsChildhood trauma Schizophrenia Bipolar-I disorder Psychosis Working memory Functional magnetic resonance imaging
We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Meelah Hamilton (now deceased), Nicholas Vella, and Inika Gillis for assistance with data collection and entry. We would also like to thank the volunteers who participated in this study. We acknowledge recruitment assistance from the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB), which is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Enabling Grant (No. 386500), the Pratt Foundation, Ramsay Health Care, the Viertel Charitable Foundation and the Schizophrenia Research Institute.
Compliance with ethical standards
This study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia (Project 630471; CIA Green). Quidé was supported by the Schizophrenia Research Institute with combined funding awarded to CI-Green from their internal “Grants-in-Aid” program, and the Macquarie University’s ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders. Green was supported by the NMHRC’s R.D. Wright Biomedical Career Development Award (1061875; 2014- 17). Rowland was supported by Australian Postgraduate Awards for PhD research. The funding bodies had no role in the decision to publish these data.
Conflict of interest
Yann Quidé, Nicole O’Reilly, Jesseca E. Rowland, Vaughan J. Carr, Bernet M. Elzinga and Melissa J. Green declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, and the applicable revisions at the time of the investigation.
Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.
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