Bachelor of Science, Vanderbilt University (2005)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of California Los Angeles (2014)
Master of Education, Harvard University (2006)
Ian Gotlib, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Self-reported neglect, amygdala volume, and symptoms of anxiety 1 in adolescent boys
CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT
2018; 80: 80–89
Experiences of psychosocial neglect affect the developing brain and may place individuals at increased risk for anxiety. The majority of research in this area has focused on children who have experienced severe psychosocial deprivation; it is not clear whether typical variation in neglect experienced in community samples would have the same neurobiological consequences as those documented in extreme samples. The present study examined the associations among self-reported childhood neglect, amygdala volume, and anxiety symptoms in a community sample of 138 adolescents ages 9-15 years (43% male). Linear mixed modeling yielded a three-way interaction of neglect, sex, and brain hemisphere, reflecting a significant positive association between neglect and right amygdala volume in boys. Additional analyses indicated that right amygdala volume significantly mediated the association between neglect and anxiety symptoms in boys. These findings are consistent with previous reports of larger amygdala volumes in previously institutionalized children, and with documented associations between caregiving deprivation and anxiety symptoms. The results suggest that the effects of childhood neglect on limbic structures are sex-specific and lateralized, and provide support for a neural mechanism relating childhood neglect to later difficulties in emotional functioning.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.03.016
View details for Web of Science ID 000433398000008
View details for PubMedID 29574295
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5953811
Stressful Life Events, ADHD Symptoms, and Brain Structure in Early Adolescence.
Journal of abnormal child psychology
Despite a growing understanding that early adversity in childhood broadly affects risk for psychopathology, the contribution of stressful life events to the development of symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not clear. In the present study, we examined the association between number of stressful life events experienced and ADHD symptoms, assessed using the Attention Problems subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist, in a sample of 214 children (43% male) ages 9.11-13.98years (M=11.38, SD=1.05). In addition, we examined whether the timing of the events (i.e., onset through age 5years or after age 6years) was associated with ADHD symptoms. Finally, we examined variation in brain structure to determine whether stressful life events were associated with volume in brain regions that were found to vary as a function of symptoms of ADHD. We found a small to moderate association between number of stressful life events and ADHD symptoms. Although the strength of the associations between number of events and ADHD symptoms did not differ as a function of the age of occurrence of stressful experiences, different brain regions were implicated in the association between stressors and ADHD symptoms in the two age periods during which stressful life events occurred. These findings support the hypothesis that early adversity is associated with ADHD symptoms, and provide insight into possible brain-based mediators of this association.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s10802-018-0443-5
View details for PubMedID 29785533
A person-centered approach to the assessment of early life stress: Associations with the volume of stress-sensitive brain regions in early adolescence.
Development and psychopathology
Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in linking specific forms of early life stress (ELS) to specific neurobiological markers, including alterations in the morphology of stress-sensitive brain regions. We used a person-centered, multi-informant approach to investigate the associations of specific constellations of ELS with hippocampal and amygdala volume in a community sample of 211 9- to 13-year-old early adolescents. Further, we compared this approach to a cumulative risk model of ELS, in which ELS was quantified by the total number of stressors reported. Using latent class analysis, we identified three classes of ELS (labeled typical/low, family instability, and direct victimization) that were distinguished by experiences of family instability and victimization. Adolescents in the direct victimization class had significantly smaller hippocampal volume than did adolescents in the typical/low class; ELS classes were not significantly associated with amygdala volume. The cumulative risk model of ELS had a poorer fit than did the person-centered model; moreover, cumulative ELS was not significantly associated with hippocampal or amygdala volume. Our results underscore the utility of taking a person-centered approach to identify alterations in stress-sensitive brain regions based on constellations of ELS, and suggest victimization is specifically associated with hippocampal hypotrophy observed in early adolescence.
View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579418000184
View details for PubMedID 29716668
Differing Windows of Sensitivity to Stress in Amygdala-Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Structural and Functional Connectivity: Implications for the Neurobiology of Depression in Youth
ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC. 2018: S81
View details for Web of Science ID 000432466300201
Irritability, Externalizing, and Internalizing Psychopathology in Adolescence: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Associations and Moderation by Sex.
Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology : the official journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53
Irritability is a common feature of many psychiatric disorders, including both externalizing and internalizing disorders. There is little research, however, examining associations between irritability and these symptom domains, particularly during the important developmental period of adolescence, characterized by sex differences in the prevalence of disorders. We examined the cross-sectional associations between irritability, measured with the Affective Reactivity Index, and symptoms of externalizing and internalizing domains of psychopathology, measured with the Youth Self Report, in a volunteer community sample (N = 183) of 9- to 13-year-old (M=11.39, SD=1.07) boys and girls (37% White/Caucasian, 8% Asian, 11% Hispanic, 8% African American, 2% Native American, 2% Pacific Islander, 28% Other, and 3% not reported). A subset of the sample (n=112) provided data at a 2-year follow-up, used to extend these associations. There were no sex differences in levels of irritability; however, the associations between irritability and symptom domains were moderated by sex. Specifically, in girls, irritability was associated equally with externalizing and internalizing symptoms. In contrast, in boys, irritability was associated more strongly with externalizing symptoms than with internalizing symptoms. Thus, across both sexes, irritability was moderately associated with externalizing symptoms, but the association between irritability and internalizing symptoms was stronger in girls than in boys. At follow-up, sex moderated the association between baseline irritability and later externalizing and internalizing symptoms. These findings indicate that irritability is associated with both externalizing and internalizing symptoms in early adolescence and that irritability is associated with internalizing symptoms more strongly in girls than in boys.
View details for DOI 10.1080/15374416.2018.1460847
View details for PubMedID 29667523
Time-varying effects of income on hippocampal volume trajectories in adolescent girls
DEVELOPMENTAL COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE
2018; 30: 41–50
Children from lower-SES families exhibit smaller hippocampal volume than do their higher-SES peers. Few studies, however, have compared hippocampal developmental trajectories as a function of SES. Thus, it is unclear whether initial rank-order stability is preserved, or whether volumes diverge/converge over the course of adolescence. In a sample of 101 girls ages 10-24 years, we examined the longitudinal association between family income and parental education, proxies for SES, and changes in hippocampal volume. Hippocampal volume was obtained using MRI; using mixed modeling, we examined the effects of income and education on hippocampal volume across age. As expected, changes in volume were non-linear across development. Further, trajectories diverged in mid-adolescence, with lower-income girls exhibiting reductions in hippocampal volume. Maximal income-related differences were observed at 18 years, and trajectories converged thereafter. This interaction remained significant when accounting for maternal hippocampal volume, suggesting a unique contribution of environment over potential heritable differences. In contrast, the association between parental education and offspring hippocampal volume appeared to be stable across adolescence, with higher levels of parental education predicting consistently larger hippocampal volume. These findings constitute preliminary evidence that girls from lower-income homes exhibit unique trajectories of hippocampal growth, with differences most evident in late adolescence.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.dcn.2017.12.005
View details for Web of Science ID 000432146500005
View details for PubMedID 29275097
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5963716
Foster care promotes adaptive functioning in early adolescence among children who experienced severe, early deprivation.
Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines
BACKGROUND: Experiences in early life lay the foundation for later development and functioning. Severe psychosocial deprivation, as experienced by children in early institutional care, constitutes an adverse experience with long-term negative consequences. The Bucharest Early Intervention Project sought to examine the effects of foster care as an alternative to institutional care for abandoned infants in Romanian institutions.METHODS: At a mean age of 22months, institutionalized children were randomized to foster care or care as usual. At age 12years, we followed-up with 98 of these children (50 randomized to foster care), as well as assessed 49 never institutionalized comparison children. Adaptive functioning was assessed across seven domains-mental health, physical health, substance use, risk-taking behavior, family relations, peer relations, and academic performance. Children at or above the threshold for adaptive functioning in at least six of seven domains were classified as having overall adaptive functioning in early adolescence.RESULTS: Among all children who had experienced severe early deprivation, 40% exhibited adaptive functioning. Children randomized to foster care were significantly more likely to exhibit adaptive functioning at age 12years than children in the care as usual condition (56% vs. 23%). In support of external validity, children who met the threshold for adaptive functioning at age 12years had higher IQs and were more physiologically responsive to stress. Among children randomized to foster care, children placed prior to age 20months were more likely to meet the threshold for adaptive functioning than those placed after this age (79% vs. 46%).CONCLUSIONS: This study provides causal evidence that placing children into families following severe deprivation increases the likelihood of adaptive functioning in early adolescence.
View details for DOI 10.1111/jcpp.12865
View details for PubMedID 29389015
Risky decision-making in children with and without ADHD: A prospective study
2018; 24 (2): 261–76
Learning from past decisions can enhance successful decision-making. It is unclear whether difficulties in learning from experience may contribute to risky decision-making, which may be altered among individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study follows 192 children with and without ADHD aged 5 to 10 years for approximately 2.5 years and examines their risky decision-making using the Balloon Emotional Learning Task (BELT), a computerized assessment of sequential risky decision-making in which participants pump up a series of virtual balloons for points. The BELT contains three task conditions: one with a variable explosion point, one with a stable and early explosion point, and one with a stable and late explosion point. These conditions may be learned via experience on the task. Contrary to expectations, ADHD status was not found to be related to greater risk-taking on the BELT, and among younger children ADHD status is in fact associated with reduced risk-taking. In addition, the typically-developing children without ADHD showed significant learning-related gains on both stable task conditions. However, the children with ADHD demonstrated learning on the condition with a stable and early explosion point, but not on the condition with the stable and late explosion point, in which more pumps are required before learning when the balloon will explode. Learning during decision-making may be more difficult for children with ADHD. Because adapting to changing environmental demands requires the use of feedback to guide future behavior, negative outcomes associated with childhood ADHD may partially reflect difficulties in learning from experience.
View details for DOI 10.1080/09297049.2016.1264578
View details for Web of Science ID 000423819500007
View details for PubMedID 27937142
The association between early life stress and prefrontal cortex activation during implicit emotion regulation is moderated by sex in early adolescence
DEVELOPMENT AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
2017; 29 (5): 1851–64
Early life stress (ELS) is a significant risk factor for the emergence of internalizing problems in adolescence. Beginning in adolescence, females are twice as likely as males to experience internalizing disorders. The present study was designed to examine sex differences in the association between ELS and internalizing problems in early pubertal adolescents, and whether and how corticolimbic function and connectivity may underlie these associations. Fifty-nine early pubertal males and 78 early pubertal females, ages 9-13 years (all Tanner Stage 3 or below) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging as they performed an emotion label task that robustly interrogates corticolimbic function. Participants were also interviewed about their experience of ELS. Females exhibited a positive association between ELS and internalizing problems, whereas males exhibited no such association. Whole-brain and amygdala region of interest analyses indicated that whereas females exhibited a positive association between ELS and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex during implicit emotion regulation, males showed no such association. Activation in these regions was positively associated with internalizing problems in females but not males; however, activation in these regions did not mediate the association between ELS and internalizing problems. Finally, both boys and girls exhibited an association between ELS and increased negative connectivity between the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and bilateral amygdala. Using a carefully characterized sample of early pubertal adolescents, the current study highlights important sex differences in the development of corticolimbic circuitry during a critical period of brain development. These sex differences may play a significant role in subsequent risk for internalizing problems.
View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579417001444
View details for Web of Science ID 000425952800024
View details for PubMedID 29162186
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5726300
Signs of reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder at age 12 years: Effects of institutional care history and high-quality foster care
DEVELOPMENT AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
2017; 29 (2): 675-684
Two disorders of attachment have been consistently identified in some young children following severe deprivation in early life: reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder. However, less is known about whether signs of these disorders persist into adolescence. We examined signs of reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder at age 12 years in 111 children who were abandoned at or shortly after birth and subsequently randomized to care as usual or to high-quality foster care, as well as in 50 comparison children who were never institutionalized. Consistent with expectations, those who experienced institutional care in early life had more signs of reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder at age 12 years than children never institutionalized. In addition, using a conservative intent-to-treat approach, those children randomized to foster care had significantly fewer signs of reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder than those randomized to care as usual. Analyses within the ever institutionalized group revealed no effects of the age of placement into foster care, but number of caregiving disruptions experienced and the percentage of the child's life spent in institutional care were significant predictors of signs of attachment disorders assessed in early adolescence. These findings indicate that adverse caregiving environments in early life have enduring effects on signs of attachment disorders, and provide further evidence that high-quality caregiving interventions are associated with reductions in both reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder.
View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579417000256
View details for Web of Science ID 000399417400025
View details for PubMedID 28401844
Positive valence bias and parent-child relationship security moderate the association between early institutional caregiving and internalizing symptoms
DEVELOPMENT AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
2017; 29 (2): 519-533
Institutional caregiving is associated with significant deviations from species-expected caregiving, altering the normative sequence of attachment formation and placing children at risk for long-term emotional difficulties. However, little is known about factors that can promote resilience following early institutional caregiving. In the current study, we investigated how adaptations in affective processing (i.e., positive valence bias) and family-level protective factors (i.e., secure parent-child relationships) moderate risk for internalizing symptoms in previously institutionalized (PI) youth. Children and adolescents with and without a history of institutional care performed a laboratory-based affective processing task and self-reported measures of parent-child relationship security. PI youth were more likely than comparison youth to show positive valence biases when interpreting ambiguous facial expressions. Both positive valence bias and parent-child relationship security moderated the association between institutional care and parent-reported internalizing symptoms, such that greater positive valence bias and more secure parent-child relationships predicted fewer symptoms in PI youth. However, when both factors were tested concurrently, parent-child relationship security more strongly moderated the link between PI status and internalizing symptoms. These findings suggest that both individual-level adaptations in affective processing and family-level factors of secure parent-child relationships may ameliorate risk for internalizing psychopathology following early institutional caregiving.
View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579417000153
View details for Web of Science ID 000399417400015
View details for PubMedID 28401841
Effects of Sensitivity to Life Stress on Uncinate Fasciculus Segments in Early Adolescence.
Social cognitive and affective neuroscience
Previous research suggests that exposure to early life stress (ELS) affects the structural integrity of the uncinate fasciculus (UF), a frontolimbic white matter tract that undergoes protracted development throughout adolescence. Adolescence is an important transitional period characterized by the emergence of internalizing psychopathology such as anxiety, particularly in individuals with high levels of stress sensitivity. We examined the relations among sensitivity to ELS, structural integrity of the UF, and anxiety symptoms in 104 early adolescents. We conducted structured interviews to assess exposure to ELS and obtained subjective and objective ratings of stress severity, from which we derived an index of ELS sensitivity. We also acquired diffusion MRI and conducted deterministic tractography to visualize UF trajectories and to compute measures of structural integrity from three distinct segments of the UF: frontal, insular, temporal. We found that higher sensitivity to ELS predicted both reduced fractional anisotropy in right frontal UF and higher levels of anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest that fibers in frontal UF, which are still developing throughout adolescence, are most vulnerable to the effects of heightened sensitivity to ELS, and that reduced structural integrity of frontal UF may underlie the relation between early stress and subsequent internalizing psychopathology.
View details for DOI 10.1093/scan/nsx065
View details for PubMedID 28460088
The impact of the severity of early life stress on diurnal cortisol: The role of puberty.
2017; 77: 68-74
Researchers have documented dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in children and adolescents who experienced early life stress (ELS). The precise nature of this dysregulation, however, has been difficult to discern. In fact, both elevated and blunted patterns of diurnal cortisol regulation have been reported in children and adolescents exposed to greater ELS, including both reduced and heightened cortisol levels and change in cortisol across the day. These divergent findings may be due to developmental changes in the relation between ELS and HPA-axis functioning. The present study was designed to examine the role of puberty in the impact of the severity of ELS on the regulation of diurnal cortisol. Boys and girls (N=145) ages 9-13 years recruited from lower-risk communities completed an interview about their ELS experiences and at-home collection of diurnal cortisol. ELS experiences were objectively coded for severity, and children's level of pubertal development was measured using Tanner Staging. Multi-level piecewise mixed-effects models tested the effects of ELS severity and pubertal stage on cortisol levels at waking, the cortisol awakening response (CAR), and the daytime cortisol slope. While we found no significant interactive effects of pubertal stage and ELS severity on cortisol levels at waking or the daytime cortisol slope, findings indicated that pubertal stage interacted with ELS severity to predict the cortisol awakening response (CAR). Specifically, in earlier puberty, higher ELS was associated with a blunted CAR compared to lower ELS; in contrast, in later puberty, higher ELS was associated with a heightened CAR compared to lower ELS. Differences in the relation between ELS severity and the CAR were uniquely determined by puberty, and not by age. By considering and examining the role of puberty, the current study provides a developmental explanation for previous divergent findings of both blunted and heightened patterns of diurnal cortisol following ELS. These results indicate that careful attention should be given to children's pubertal status before drawing conclusions concerning the nature of diurnal cortisol dysregulation.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.11.024
View details for PubMedID 28024271
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5336485
The Role of Anxiety Control and Treatment Implications of Informant Agreement on Child PTSD Symptoms
JOURNAL OF CLINICAL CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHOLOGY
2017; 46 (6): 903–14
The goal of this study is to examine parent and child agreement of child posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms pre- and posttreatment, as well as potential moderators of agreement including treatment responder status, child anxiety control, and parent self-reported PTSD symptoms. We examined child self-reported and parent-reported child PTSD symptoms from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children. Of the 141 parent-child pairs, the mean age of children was 12.72 (SD = 3.40), 53% were female, and 54% were Black. A subsample of participants (n = 47) was assessed after completion of a cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for PTSD. Moderate levels of agreement were found at baseline, though Criterion D (increased arousal) symptoms had lower levels of agreement than the other symptom clusters. Symptom agreement was lower at posttreatment. Treatment responders had higher levels of baseline informant agreement than treatment nonresponders. Child perceived anxiety control significantly moderated informant agreement, such that pairs with children who had high levels of perceived control of their anxiety had lower PTSD symptom agreement where children reported lower symptoms relative to their parents. Contrary to expectations, parent self-reported PTSD did not moderate parent-child symptom agreement. Factors associated with higher parent-child agreement of child PTSD symptoms were being a PTSD treatment responder and children with lower perceived anxiety control. These findings have potential implications for determining those who may benefit from greater symptom monitoring over the course of intervention and potential alternative intervention approaches.
View details for DOI 10.1080/15374416.2015.1094739
View details for Web of Science ID 000414062300011
View details for PubMedID 26645622
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4899315
Attentional avoidance of fearful facial expressions following early life stress is associated with impaired social functioning.
Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines
2016; 57 (10): 1174-1182
Early life stress is associated with poorer social functioning. Attentional biases in response to threat-related cues, linked to both early experience and psychopathology, may explain this association. To date, however, no study has examined attentional biases to fearful facial expressions as a function of early life stress or examined these biases as a potential mediator of the relation between early life stress and social problems.In a sample of 154 children (ages 9-13 years) we examined the associations among interpersonal early life stressors (i.e., birth through age 6 years), attentional biases to emotional facial expressions using a dot-probe task, and social functioning on the Child Behavior Checklist.High levels of early life stress were associated with both greater levels of social problems and an attentional bias away from fearful facial expressions, even after accounting for stressors occurring in later childhood. No biases were found for happy or sad facial expressions as a function of early life stress. Finally, attentional biases to fearful faces mediated the association between early life stress and social problems.Attentional avoidance of fearful facial expressions, evidenced by a bias away from these stimuli, may be a developmental response to early adversity and link the experience of early life stress to poorer social functioning.
View details for DOI 10.1111/jcpp.12607
View details for PubMedID 27457566
DNA methylation at stress-related genes is associated with exposure to early life institutionalization
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
2016; 161 (1): 84-93
Differences in DNA methylation have been associated with early life adversity, suggesting that alterations in methylation function as one pathway through which adverse early environments are biologically embedded. This study examined associations between exposure to institutional care, quantified as the proportion of time in institutional care at specified follow-up assessment ages, and DNA methylation status in two stress-related genes: FKBP5 and SLC6A4.We analyzed data from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, which is a prospective study in which children reared in institutional settings were randomly assigned (mean age 22 months) to either newly created foster care or care as usual (to remain in their current placement) and prospectively followed. A group of children from the same geographic area, with no history of institutionalized caregiving, were also recruited. DNA methylation status was determined in DNA extracted from buccal epithelial cells of children at age 12.An inverse association was identified such that more time spent in institutional care was associated with lower DNA methylation at specific CpG sites within both genes.These results suggest a lasting impact of early severe social deprivation on methylation patterns in these genes, and contribute to a growing literature linking early adversity and epigenetic variation in children. Am J Phys Anthropol 161:84-93, 2016.. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
View details for DOI 10.1002/ajpa.23010
View details for Web of Science ID 000383549400009
View details for PubMedID 27218411
Impaired Social Decision-Making Mediates the Association Between ADHD and Social Problems
JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY
2016; 44 (5): 1023-1032
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reliably predicts social dysfunction, ranging from poor social competence and elevated peer rejection to inadequate social skills. Yet, the factors mediating predictions of social problems from childhood ADHD are not well understood. In the present study, we investigated social functioning in 186 (69 % male) 6 to 10 year-old (M = 7.88, SD = 1.17) children with (n = 98) and without (n = 87) ADHD who were followed prospectively for two years. We implemented a well-validated measure of social problems as well as a novel social decision-making task assessing dynamic response to changing affective cues at the two-year follow-up. According to separate parent and teacher report, baseline ADHD symptoms positively predicted social problems at the two-year follow-up; individual differences on the social decision-making task mediated this association. This finding was replicated when ADHD dimensions (i.e., inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) were separately examined. These findings suggest that the deficient use of affective cues to effectively guide behavior may partially underlie poor social functioning among children with ADHD. If replicated, these preliminary findings suggest that social skills interventions that target interpretation of affective cues to aid in social decision-making behavior may improve social outcomes negatively affected by early ADHD symptoms.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s10802-015-0095-7
View details for Web of Science ID 000377449600016
View details for PubMedID 26486935
Previous Institutionalization Is Followed by Broader Amygdala-Hippocampal-PFC Network Connectivity during Aversive Learning in Human Development
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
2016; 36 (24): 6420-6430
Early institutional care can be profoundly stressful for the human infant, and, as such, can lead to significant alterations in brain development. In animal models, similar variants of early adversity have been shown to modify amygdala-hippocampal-prefrontal cortex development and associated aversive learning. The current study examined this rearing aberration in human development. Eighty-nine children and adolescents who were either previously institutionalized (PI youth; N = 46; 33 females and 13 males; age range, 7-16 years) or were raised by their biological parents from birth (N = 43; 22 females and 21 males; age range, 7-16 years) completed an aversive-learning paradigm while undergoing functional neuroimaging, wherein visual cues were paired with either an aversive sound (CS+) or no sound (CS-). For the PI youth, better aversive learning was associated with higher concurrent trait anxiety. Both groups showed robust learning and amygdala activation for CS+ versus CS- trials. However, PI youth also exhibited broader recruitment of several regions and increased hippocampal connectivity with prefrontal cortex. Stronger connectivity between the hippocampus and ventromedial PFC predicted significant improvements in future anxiety (measured 2 years later), and this was particularly true within the PI group. These results suggest that for humans as well as for other species, early adversity alters the neurobiology of aversive learning by engaging a broader prefrontal-subcortical circuit than same-aged peers. These differences are interpreted as ontogenetic adaptations and potential sources of resilience.Prior institutionalization is a significant form of early adversity. While nonhuman animal research suggests that early adversity alters aversive learning and associated neurocircuitry, no prior work has examined this in humans. Here, we show that youth who experienced prior institutionalization, but not comparison youth, recruit the hippocampus during aversive learning. Among youth who experienced prior institutionalization, individual differences in aversive learning were associated with worse current anxiety. However, connectivity between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex prospectively predicted significant improvements in anxiety 2 years following scanning for previously institutionalized youth. Among youth who experienced prior institutionalization, age-atypical engagement of a distributed set of brain regions during aversive learning may serve a protective function.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0038-16.2016
View details for Web of Science ID 000379015300007
View details for PubMedID 27307231