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Effects of Early Life Adversity on Brain Growth Measured with Imaging

Effects of Early Life Adversity on Brain Growth Measured with Imaging

A new study shows how adverse experiences within the first six years of life lead to higher levels of childhood internalizing symptoms and variations in brain growth in adolescent males.

Internalizing symptoms include the development of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

In the study, Edward D. Barker, Ph.D., of King’s College London, and coauthors objectively examined how adverse experiences within the first six years of life relate to variations in cortical gray matter volume in the brains of adolescent males.

Authors believe the changes in brain volume are influenced both directly and indirectly, through increased levels of childhood internalizing symptoms.

The study appears online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers followed a group of 494 mother-son pairs whose mothers reported on family adversities encountered by their sons through age six. Mothers also reported on levels of internalizing symptoms (depressive and/or anxiety) when the boys were ages seven, 10 and 13. Imaging data from MRIs was collected in late adolescence.

The authors found that among the 494 men included in the analysis, early adversity was associated with alterations in brain structure. Childhood internalizing symptoms were associated with lower gray matter volume in a brain region.

Early adversity was associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms, which in turn were associated with a region of lower gray matter volume, which is an example of an indirect effect, according to the results.

The authors note limitations of the study, including that it was limited to male participants.

“The finding that childhood experiences can affect the brain highlights early childhood not only as a period of vulnerability but also a period of opportunity. Interventions toward adversity might help to prevent children from developing internalizing symptoms and protect against abnormal brain development,” the study concludes.

Source: JAMA Pediatrics/EurekAlert
 
Upset young boy photo by shutterstock.

Effects of Early Life Adversity on Brain Growth Measured with Imaging

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Effects of Early Life Adversity on Brain Growth Measured with Imaging. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/08/18/effects-of-early-life-adversity-on-brain-growth-measured-with-imaging/91024.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.