Maternal support in early childhood predicts larger hippocampal volumes at school age.
ABSTRACT Early maternal support has been shown to promote specific gene expression, neurogenesis, adaptive stress responses, and larger hippocampal volumes in developing animals. In humans, a relationship between psychosocial factors in early childhood and later amygdala volumes based on prospective data has been demonstrated, providing a key link between early experience and brain development. Although much retrospective data suggests a link between early psychosocial factors and hippocampal volumes in humans, to date there has been no prospective data to inform this potentially important public health issue. In a longitudinal study of depressed and healthy preschool children who underwent neuroimaging at school age, we investigated whether early maternal support predicted later hippocampal volumes. Maternal support observed in early childhood was strongly predictive of hippocampal volume measured at school age. The positive effect of maternal support on hippocampal volumes was greater in nondepressed children. These findings provide prospective evidence in humans of the positive effect of early supportive parenting on healthy hippocampal development, a brain region key to memory and stress modulation.
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ABSTRACT: The extent to which brain structural abnormalities might serve as neurobiological endophenotypes that mediate the link between the variation in the promoter of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) and depression is currently unknown. We therefore investigated whether variation in hippocampus, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and anterior cingulate cortex volumes at age 12 years mediated a putative association between 5-HTTLPR genotype and first onset of major depressive disorder (MDD) between age 13–19 years, in a longitudinal study of 174 adolescents (48% males). Increasing copies of S-alleles were found to predict smaller left hippocampal volume, which in turn was associated with increased risk of experiencing a first onset of MDD. Increasing copies of S-alleles also predicted both smaller left and right medial OFC volumes, although neither left nor right medial OFC volumes were prospectively associated with a first episode of MDD during adolescence. The findings therefore suggest that structural abnormalities in the left hippocampus may be present prior to the onset of depression during adolescence and may be partly responsible for an indirect association between 5-HTTLPR genotype and depressive illness. 5-HTTLPR genotype may also impact upon other regions of the brain, such as the OFC, but structural differences in these regions in early adolescence may not necessarily alter the risk for onset of depression during later adolescence. Translational Psychiatry (2014) 4, e445; doi:10.1038/tp.09/2014; DOI:10.1038/tp.2014.85
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ABSTRACT: Background The quality of the early environment is hypothesized to be an influence on morphological development in key neural areas related to affective responding, but direct evidence to support this possibility is limited. In a 22-year longitudinal study, we examined hippocampal and amygdala volumes in adulthood in relation to early infant attachment status, an important indicator of the quality of the early caregiving environment.Methods Participants (N = 59) were derived from a prospective longitudinal study of the impact of maternal postnatal depression on child development. Infant attachment status (24 Secure; 35 Insecure) was observed at 18 months of age, and MRI assessments were completed at 22 years.ResultsIn line with hypotheses, insecure versus secure infant attachment status was associated with larger amygdala volumes in young adults, an effect that was not accounted for by maternal depression history. We did not find early infant attachment status to predict hippocampal volumes.Conclusions Common variations in the quality of early environment are associated with gross alterations in amygdala morphology in the adult brain. Further research is required to establish the neural changes that underpin the volumetric differences reported here, and any functional implications.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 08/2014; DOI:10.1111/jcpp.12317 · 5.42 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Critical-analytic thinking is typically conceived as a meta-construct that arises at the junction of a problem state (i.e., a situation that requires analysis that challenges previous assumptions) and an individual (i.e., an entity with the capacity to exercise critical-analytic thinking). With regard to the latter, there is a substantial body of research focusing on developmental and educational prerequisites for critical-analytic thinking. A less studied aspect of critical-analytic thinking pertains to individual differences, particularly in the set of foundational or componential cognitive skills that embody this construct. The bottom line here is whether, all else being equal (i.e., the same situation and the same developmental/ educational stage), there is variation in whether, when, and how people think critically/ analytically. We argue that there is unequivocal evidence for both the existence and importance of individual differences in critical-analytic thinking. This review focuses on theoretical and empirical evidence, identifying the cognitive processes that serve as the sources of these individual differences and capturing these processes' differential contributions to both the critical and analytic components of this construct. Keywords Critical analytic thinking . Neurocognitive mechanisms . Fluid reasoning . Executive function . Genetic factors . Environmental factors For better or for worse, people differ. The number of dimensions on which they differ is endless; one such dimension is the way they think. Here we are interested in surveying both the presentation and sources of individual differences in critical-analytic thinking. WhereasEducational Psychology Review 10/2014; DOI:10.1007/s10648-014-9279-x · 2.40 Impact Factor