Maternal support in early childhood predicts larger hippocampal volumes at school age

Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 02/2012; 109(8):2854-9. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1118003109
Source: PubMed


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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    • "Recently, maternal support behavior during early childhood has even been associated with greater hippocampal volume by school age (Luby et al., 2012), and hippocampal volume has itself been associated with attenuated threat responding (Francis and Meaney, 1999; Kalisch et al., 2005). Our longitudinal sample allowed us to test this second hypothesis by modeling associations between maternal support behaviors measured at age 13 as moderating the impact of handholding on threat responding in adulthood. "
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroimaging studies using the social-exclusion paradigm Cyberball indicate increased dACC and right insula activity as a function of exclusion. However, comparatively less work has been done on how social status factors may moderate this finding. The current study used the Cyberball paradigm with 85 (45 female) socio-economically diverse participants from a larger longitudinal sample. We tested whether neighborhood quality during adolescence would predict subsequent neural responding to social exclusion in young adulthood. Given previous behavioral studies indicating greater social vigilance and negative evaluation as a function of lower status, we expected that lower adolescent neighborhood quality would predict greater dACC activity during exclusion at young adulthood. Our findings indicate that young adults who lived in low-quality neighborhoods in adolescence showed greater dACC activity to social exclusion than those who lived in higher-quality neighborhoods. Lower neighborhood quality also predicted greater prefrontal activation in the superior frontal gyrus, dorsal medial prefrontal cortext, and the middle frontal gyrus, possibly indicating greater regulatory effort. Finally, this effect was not driven by subsequent ratings of distress during exclusion. In sum, adolescent neighborhood quality appears to potentiate neural responses to social exclusion in young adulthood, effects that are independent of felt distress.
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 10/2014; 10(7). DOI:10.1093/scan/nsu137 · 7.37 Impact Factor
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    • "We also considered maternal depression and participant's own history of depression and anxiety as potential covariates for analyses. Previous research has linked the presence of youth or adult depression (Caetano et al., 2007; Campbell, Marriott, Nahmias, & MacQueen, 2004; MacMaster et al., 2008; Videbech & Ravnkilde, 2004), and also family history of depression (Baare et al., 2010; Chen, Hamilton, & Gotlib, 2010; Rao, Chen, et al., 2010) with reduced hippocampal volumes, although not always consistently (Luby et al., 2012; Lupien et al., 2011; Pannekoek et al., 2014; Rosso et al., 2005). Similarly, there have been observations of enlarged amygdalae in association with familial risk of depression (Lupien et al., 2011; Romanczuk-Seiferth et al., 2014), and with individual symptoms of anxiety (Baur, Hanggi, & Jancke, 2012; MacMillan et al., 2003; Qin et al., 2014; Tottenham et al., 2010), although again there have been some mixed findings (Munn et al., 2007). "
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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; 56(5). DOI:10.1111/jcpp.12317 · 6.46 Impact Factor
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    • "The study also highlighted that SES differences in neural functions are not immutable. Less is known about the factors behind child-level neural mechanisms underlying language development, but maternal nurturance and support in early childhood predicts school-age gray matter volume in the left hippocampus, an area central for memory and also language learning (Luby et al., 2012 "
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    ABSTRACT: Although researchers have studied disparities in early language development related to socioeconomic status (SES), it is unclear how early and through which mechanisms these differences emerge. As income inequality continues to widen across the world, it is crucial to examine the child-level mechanisms that mediate the effects of SES on individual differences in language development. A deeper understanding of the nature of the differences will allow development of more effective intervention techniques. In this article, we discuss work on child-level cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying the relation between SES and early language development. We discuss possible factors behind individual differences in child-level mechanisms and cascading effects of these differences. We conclude with recommendations for research.
    Child Development Perspectives 04/2014; 8(2). DOI:10.1111/cdep.12069 · 3.26 Impact Factor
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