Childhood abuse and deprivation are associated with distinct sex-dependent differences in brain morphology

Everaerd, D., Klumpers, F., Zwiers, M., Guadalupe, T., Franke, B., Van Oostrum, I., Schene, A., Fernandez, G., & Tendolkar, I. (2016). Childhood abuse and deprivation are associated with distinct sex-dependent differences in brain morphology. Neuropsychopharmacology, 41, 1716-1723. doi:10.1038/npp.2015.344.
Childhood adversity (CA) has been associated with long-term structural brain alterations and an increased risk for psychiatric disorders. Evidence is emerging that subtypes of CA, varying in the dimensions of threat and deprivation, lead to distinct neural and behavioral outcomes. However, these specific associations have yet to be established without potential confounders such as psychopathology. Moreover, differences in neural development and psychopathology necessitate the exploration of sexual dimorphism. Young healthy adult subjects were selected based on history of CA from a large database to assess gray matter (GM) differences associated with specific subtypes of adversity. We compared voxel-based morphometry data of subjects reporting specific childhood exposure to abuse (n = 127) or deprivation (n = 126) and a similar sized group of controls (n = 129) without reported CA. Subjects were matched on age, gender, and educational level. Differences between CA subtypes were found in the fusiform gyrus and middle occipital gyms, where subjects with a history of deprivation showed reduced GM compared with subjects with a history of abuse. An interaction between sex and CA subtype was found. Women showed less GM in the visual posterior precuneal region after both subtypes of CA than controls. Men had less GM in the postcentral gyms after childhood deprivation compared with abuse. Our results suggest that even in a healthy population, CA subtypes are related to specific alterations in brain structure, which are modulated by sex. These findings may help understand neurodevelopmental consequences related to CA
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