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Neural functional and structural correlates of childhood maltreatment in women with intimate-partner violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder

Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2012.08.006
  • Early Life Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Imaging
  • Trauma
  • Abuse
  • Neglect


Abstract Childhood maltreatment (CM) is a strong risk factor for development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) upon adult exposure to extreme adverse events. However, the neural underpinnings of this relationship are not well understood. Here, we test the hypothesis that severity of CM history is positively correlated with emotion-processing limbic and prefrontal brain activation/connectivity and negatively correlated with prefrontal gray matter volumes in women with PTSD due to intimate-partner violence (IPV-PTSD). Thirty-three women with IPV-PTSD underwent structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging while completing a facial emotion processing task. Multivariate regressions examined the relationship of CM to patterns of activation, connectivity, and gray matter volumes. CM severity was: (a) positively correlated with ventral ACC activation while processing angry faces; (b) negatively correlated with dorsal ACC and insula activation while processing fear and angry faces, arising from positive correlations with the shape-matching baseline; (c) positively correlated with limbic–prefrontal connectivity while processing fear faces but negatively correlated with amygdalo–insular connectivity while processing fear and angry; and (d) negatively correlated with prefrontal gray matter volumes. These results suggest CM exposure may account for variability in limbic/prefrontal brain function and prefrontal structure in adulthood PTSD and offer one potential mechanism through which CM confers risk to future development of PTSD.

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