Amygdala, hippocampal and corpus callosum size following severe early institutional deprivation: The English and Romanian Adoptees Study Pilot

Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 5.67). 05/2009; 50(8):943-51. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02084.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The adoption into the UK of children who have been reared in severely deprived conditions provides an opportunity to study possible association between very early negative experiences and subsequent brain development. This cross-sectional study was a pilot for a planned larger study quantifying the effects of early deprivation on later brain structure. We used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the sizes of three key brain regions hypothesized to be sensitive to early adverse experiences. Our sample was a group of adoptee adolescents (N = 14) who had experienced severe early institutional deprivation in Romania and a group of non-institutionalised controls (N = 11). The total grey and white matter volumes were significantly smaller in the institutionalised group compared with a group of non-deprived, non-adopted UK controls. After correcting for difference in brain volume, the institutionalised group had greater amygdala volumes, especially on the right, but no differences were observed in hippocampal volume or corpus callosum mid-sagittal area. The left amygdala volume was also related to the time spent in institutions, with those experiencing longer periods of deprivation having a smaller left amygdala volume. These pilot findings highlight the need for future studies to confirm the sensitivity of the amygdala to early deprivation.

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Available from: Chiara Nosarti, Aug 21, 2015
    • "Increased dendritic branching and greater spine density of amygdala neurons have been reported in rodents after chronic restraint stress (Vyas et al., 2002; Mitra et al., 2009; Roozendaal et al., 2009), as well as increased myelination after maternal separation (Ono et al., 2008), which was accompanied by higher levels of anxious behavior. Similarly, several human studies have shown that early life adversity, such as prolonged orphanage rearing or poor care due to maternal depression, is related to larger amygdala volumes in adolescence compared to their peers, as well as an increased risk to develop affective psychopathology (Mehta et al., 2009; Tottenham et al., 2010; Lupien et al., 2011), although smaller medial temporal lobe volumes were found as well (Hanson et al., 2015). In adulthood, however, limited evidence was found for a difference in amygdala volumes between PTSD patients who were exposed to childhood maltreatment and controls in a small meta-analysis (Woon and Hedges, 2008), though smaller volumes have been reported in other studies (Vermetten et al., 2006; Weniger et al., 2008, 2009; Irle et al., 2009), as well as in adult borderline patients with a history of childhood abuse (Driessen et al., 2000; Schmahl et al., 2003), which is in line with our current results. "
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    ABSTRACT: Hippocampus and amygdala volumes in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to childhood trauma are relatively understudied, albeit the potential importance to the disorder. Whereas some studies reported smaller hippocampal volumes, little evidence was found for abnormal amygdala volumes. Here we investigated hippocampus and amygdala volumes and shapes in an adult sample of PTSD patients related to childhood trauma. T1-weighted MR images were acquired from 12 female PTSD patients with trauma related to physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse before age 18, and from 12 matched controls. Hippocampus and amygdala were segmented, and volumes were calculated and corrected for the total intracranial volume. Additionally, a shape analysis was done on the surface of the structures to explore abnormalities in specific subnuclei. Smaller right amygdala volumes were found in PTSD patients as compared with the controls. This difference appeared to be located specifically in the basolateral and superficial nuclei groups. Severity of sexual abuse during childhood was negatively correlated with the size of the amygdala. No difference in hippocampal volumes was found. Although our results are not conclusive, traumatic events in childhood might impede normal development of the amygdala, which could render a person more vulnerable to develop PTSD later in life. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
    07/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2015.07.016
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    • "Briefly, both structure and functioning of the brain have shown to be altered in currently and formerly institutionalized children, at least for those who were raised in these settings for significant periods of time and beyond 6 months of age. Consistent structural findings are reductions in both gray and white matter volumes in children who experienced institutional deprivation (Eluvathingal et al., 2006; Mehta et al., 2009; Sheridan, Fox, Zeanah, McLaughlin, & Nelson, 2012), compatible with reduced electrical activity in higher frequencies and increased electrical activities in lower frequencies (Marshall & Fox, 2004; Marshall, Reeb, Fox, Nelson, & Zeanah, 2008; Tarullo, Garvin, & Gunnar, 2011; Vanderwert, Marshall, Nelson, Zeanah, & Fox, 2010). These changes may be lasting, but for children placed with families before 24 months, Vanderwert et al. (2010) demonstrated normalization of brain functioning by age 8 years. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Though noted in the clinical literature for more than 50 years, attachment disorders have been studied systematically only recently. In part because of the ubiquity of attachments in humans, determining when aberrant behavior is best explained as an attachment disorder as opposed to insecure attachment has led to some confusion. In this selective review, we consider the literature on reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder and describe an emerging consensus about a number of issues, while also noting some areas of controversy and others where we lack clear answers. We include a brief history of the classification of the disorders, as well as measurement issues. We describe their clinical presentation, causes and vulnerability factors, and clinical correlates, including the relation of disorders to secure and insecure attachment classifications. We also review what little is known and what more we need to learn about interventions.Methods We conducted a literature search using PubMed, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library databases, using search terms ‘reactive attachment disorder,’ ‘attachment disorder,’ ‘indiscriminate behavior,’ ‘indiscriminate friendliness,’ ‘indiscriminate socially disinhibited reactive attachment disorder,’ ‘disinhibited social engagement disorder,’ and ‘disinhibited social behavior.’ We also contacted investigators who have published on these topics.FindingsA growing literature has assessed behaviors in children who have experienced various types of adverse caregiving environments reflecting signs of putative attachment disorders, though fewer studies have investigated categorically defined attachment disorders. The evidence for two separate disorders is considerable, with reactive attachment disorder indicating children who lack attachments despite the developmental capacity to form them, and disinhibited social engagement disorder indicating children who lack developmentally appropriate reticence with unfamiliar adults and who violate socially sanctioned boundaries.Conclusions Although many questions remain to be answered, especially regarding appropriate interventions, we know considerably more about attachment disorders than we did only a decade ago.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 10/2014; 56(3). DOI:10.1111/jcpp.12347 · 5.67 Impact Factor
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    • "attachment relationship to be a predictor of hippocampal volumes. Our finding that insecure attachment in infancy predicts amygdala volume in adulthood is consistent with previous reports of enlarged amygdalae, but no changes in hippocampi, in children who experienced early institutional deprivation (Mehta et al., 2009; Tottenham et al., 2010). The majority of insecure attachments (87%) in the current sample were Type A-Avoidant, which is typical of dyads in which mothers are relatively unresponsive to their infant (Ainsworth et al., 1978). "
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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 · 5.67 Impact Factor
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