Article

Reduced Visual Cortex Gray Matter Volume and Thickness in Young Adults Who Witnessed Domestic Violence during Childhood

Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, United States of America
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.53). 12/2012; 7(12):e52528. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052528
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Exposure to interparental violence is associated with negative outcomes, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and reduced cognitive abilities. However, little is known about the potential effects of witnessing domestic violence during childhood on gray matter volume (GMV) or cortical thickness. High-resolution 3.0 T volumetric scans (Siemens Trio Scanner) were obtained on 52 subjects (18-25 years) including 22 (6 males/16 females) with a history of visually witnessing episodes of domestic violence, and 30 (8 males/22 females) unexposed control subjects, with neither a current nor past DSM-IV Axis I or II disorder. Potential confounding effects of age, gender, level of parental verbal aggression, parental education, financial stress, full scale IQ, and total GMV, or average thickness were modeled using voxel based morphometry and FreeSurfer. Witnessing domestic violence subjects had a 6.1% GMV reduction in the right lingual gyrus (BA18) (P = 0.029, False Discovery Rate corrected peak level). Thickness in this region was also reduced, as was thickness in V2 bilaterally and left occipital pole. Theses regions were maximally sensitive to exposure to witnessing domestic violence between 11-13 years of age. Regional reductions in GMV and thickness were observed in both susceptible and resilient witnessing domestic violence subjects. Results in subjects witnessing domestic violence were similar to previously reported results in subjects with childhood sexual abuse, as the primary region affected was visual cortex. Brain regions that process and convey the adverse sensory input of the abuse may be specifically modified by this experience, particularly in subjects exposed to a single type of maltreatment. Exposure to multiple types of maltreatment is more commonly associated with morphological alterations in corticolimbic regions. These findings fit with preclinical studies showing that visual cortex is a highly plastic structure.

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