Early Neglect Is Associated With Alterations in White Matter Integrity and Cognitive Functioning

University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Child Development (Impact Factor: 4.92). 03/2013; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12069
Source: PubMed


Cognitive deficits have been reported in children who experienced early neglect, especially children raised in institutionalized settings. Previous research suggests that early neglect may differentially affect the directional organization of white matter in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This may be one mechanism to explain cognitive deficits associated with neglect. To test this idea, properties of white matter and neurocognitive performance were assessed in children who suffered early neglect and those raised in typical environments (n = 63, Mage = 11.75 years). As predicted, prefrontal white matter microstructure was affected, consistent with more diffuse organization, in children that suffered early neglect and this was related to neurocognitive deficits. Such findings underscore how early adversity may affect the PFC and explain cognitive deficits associated with neglect.

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Available from: Nagesh Adluru, Apr 01, 2014
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    • "Specific working-memory, inhibitory control, and attentionalcognitive abilities comprise executive functions in the developmental cognitive neuroscience literature (Blair et al., 2014; Zelazo & Bauer, 2013). Early child neglect has been shown to be related to diffuse organization of white matter microstructure in PFC in adolescents, and this has been associated with neurocognitive deficits on tasks that involve assessments of cognitive control, behavioral regulation, and spatial planning (Hanson et al., 2013). The examination of self-control from different perspectives and time points in developmental research has led to a growing realization that large societal problems such as criminality often begin with individual difficulties in self-control (Moffitt et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Childhood maltreatment represents a complex stressor, with the developmental timing, duration, frequency, and type of maltreatment varying with each child (Barnett, Manly, & Cicchetti, 1993; Cicchetti & Manly, 2001). Multiple brain regions and neural circuits are disrupted by the experience of child maltreatment (Cicchetti & Toth, in press; DeBellis et al., 2002; McCrory & Viding, 2010; Teicher, Anderson, & Polcari, 2012). These neurobiological compromises indicate the impairment of a number of important cognitive functions, including working memory and inhibitory control. The present study extends prior research by examining the effect of childhood maltreatment on neurocognitive functioning based on developmental timing of maltreatment, including onset, chronicity, and recency, in a sample of 3- to 9-year-old nonmaltreated ( n = 136) and maltreated children ( n = 223). Maltreated children performed more poorly on inhibitory control and working-memory tasks than did nonmaltreated children. Group differences between maltreated children based on the timing of maltreatment and the chronicity of maltreatment also were evident. Specifically, children who were maltreated during infancy, and children with a chronic history of maltreatment, exhibited significantly poorer inhibitory control and working-memory performance than did children without a history of maltreatment. The results suggest that maltreatment occurring during infancy, a period of major brain organization, disrupts normative structure and function, and these deficits are further instantiated by the prolonged stress of chronic maltreatment during the early years of life.
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    • "Studies have demonstrated neurological impacts as a result of less than optimal caregiving (e.g., Hanson et al., 2013; Strathearn, 2011). Neglect has been identified as " the most prevalent form of child maltreatment " (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2012, p. 6). "
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    • "The present study used a model of early aversive and nurturing caregiving in rats [20], [21], [22] to examine whether variations in the caregiving environment for 30 minutes a day during the first week of postnatal life influenced telomere length in different brain regions - the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), amygdala, and the ventral hippocampus (vHPC). The end of the first postnatal week in the rat is considered the neurodevelopmental equivalent of a near-term human infant, and these brain regions were selected because childhood maltreatment and other types of early adversity have been shown to alter function of the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus [23], [24], [25],[26]_ENREF_12. "
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