Separable effects of childhood maltreatment and adult adaptive functioning on amygdala connectivity during emotional processing

Authors: 

Demers, Lauren
McKenzie, Kelly
Hunt, Ruskin H. 
Cicchetti, Dante
Cowell, Raquel
Rogosch, Fred
Toth, Sheree
Thomas, Kathleen M.

Year of Publication: 
2017
Source: 
Society of Biological Psychiatry, 3, 116-124
Abstract: 

Background: Individuals with a history of maltreatment show altered amygdala reactivity to emotional stimuli, atypical frontal regulatory control, and differences in frontolimbic connectivity compared with nonmaltreated controls. However, despite early trauma, many individuals who experience maltreatment show resilience or adaptive functioning in adulthood including positive social, educational, and occupational outcomes.

Methods: The present study used a psychophysiological interaction model to examine the effect of adult adaptive functioning on group differences between maltreated and nonmaltreated adults in task-based amygdala functional connectivity. The task used was a facial emotion-matching paradigm. Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans were collected from 41 adults with a history of substantiated childhood maltreatment and 39 nonmaltreated adults who were well matched on demographic variables, all of whom had been studied since childhood. Adaptive functioning was measured with a composite score of success on stage-salient developmental tasks.

Results: Consistent with previous research, we found differences in task-related amygdala functional connectivity between the maltreated and nonmaltreated groups. Effects were seen in the left hippocampus, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and right thalamus. However, when adult functioning was included in the model, maltreatment-related differences in amygdala connectivity were observed only in the hippocampus. Adult adaptive functioning independently predicted task-related amygdala connectivity in frontal and parietal regions across the entire sample.

Conclusions: These results suggest that frontolimbic functional connectivity is predicted by positive developmental adaptation in this high-risk population, regardless of maltreatment history, whereas intralimbic connectivity (amygdala and hippocampus) is more specifically associated with maltreatment history.

Type of Publication: 
Journal article