Rao, H. et al. Early parental care is important for hippocampal maturation: evidence from brain morphology in humans. Neuroimage 49, 1144-1150

Center for Functional Neuroimaging, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 08/2009; 49(1):1144-50. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.07.003
Source: PubMed


The effects of early life experience on later brain structure and function have been studied extensively in animals, yet the relationship between childhood experience and normal brain development in humans remains largely unknown. Using a unique longitudinal data set including ecologically valid in-home measures of early experience during childhood (at age 4 and 8 years) and high-resolution structural brain imaging during adolescence (mean age 14 years), we examined the effects on later brain morphology of two dimensions of early experience: parental nurturance and environmental stimulation. Parental nurturance at age 4 predicts the volume of the left hippocampus in adolescence, with better nurturance associated with smaller hippocampal volume. In contrast, environmental stimulation did not correlate with hippocampal volume. Moreover, the association between hippocampal volume and parental nurturance disappears at age 8, supporting the existence of a sensitive developmental period for brain maturation. These findings indicate that variation in normal childhood experience is associated with differences in brain morphology, and hippocampal volume is specifically associated with early parental nurturance. Our results provide neuroimaging evidence supporting the important role of warm parental care during early childhood for brain maturation.

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Available from: Hengyi Rao, Jan 08, 2014
    • "Further, abnormalities in the frontal cortex were observed when abuse was reported during ages 14–16. In line with these findings, Rao et al. (2010) also found evidence for an early hippocampal sensitive period. Hippocampal volume loss during adolescence was associated with lack of parental nurturance at age 4 years old, but not with lack of parental nurturance at age 8. "
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    ABSTRACT: We present new empirical data and meta-analytic evidence for the association of childhood maltreatment with reduced hippocampal volume. In Study 1, we examined the effects of maltreatment experiences reported during the Adult Attachment Interview on hippocampal volume in female twin pairs. We found that reduced hippocampal volume was related to childhood maltreatment. In addition, individuals who reported having experienced maltreatment at older ages had larger reductions in hippocampal volume compared to individuals who reported maltreatment in early childhood. In Study 2, we present the results of a meta-analysis of 49 studies (including 2,720 participants) examining hippocampal volume in relation to experiences of child maltreatment, and test the moderating role of the timing of the maltreatment, the severity of maltreatment, and the time after exposure to maltreatment. The results of the meta-analysis confirmed that experiences of childhood maltreatment are associated with a reduction in hippocampal volume and that the effects of maltreatment are more pronounced when the maltreatment occurs in middle childhood compared to early childhood or adolescence.
    Development and Psychopathology 05/2015; 27(2):507-20. DOI:10.1017/S0954579415000127 · 4.89 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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    • "For example, we have found low levels of positive maternal behaviors during conflictual interactions to prospectively predict the onset of depressive disorders during adolescence (Schwartz et al., in press). We focused on the structural development of a number of cortical and subcortical regions of interest (ROIs), which were chosen based on (a) the premise that an adolescent's experience of their mother's positive behavior would primarily engage, and hence influence, neural circuitry implicated in processing positive cues from the environment (i.e., reward processing and learning) and in regulating emotion, and (b) the involvement of these regions in the research to date (e.g., Ducharme et al., 2013; Rao et al., 2010) that has found brain structural associations with aspects of positive parenting and associated indices of adolescent function- ing. The structures investigated in this study include the amygdala, hippocampus, dorsal and ventral striatum, OFC, and ACC. "
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    ABSTRACT: Little work has been conducted that examines the effects of positive environmental experiences on brain development to date. The aim of this study was to prospectively investigate the effects of positive (warm and supportive) maternal behavior on structural brain development during adolescence, using longitudinal structural MRI. Participants were 188 (92 female) adolescents, who were part of a longitudinal adolescent development study that involved mother-adolescent interactions and MRI scans at approximately 12 years old, and follow-up MRI scans approximately 4 years later. FreeSurfer software was used to estimate the volume of limbic-striatal regions (amygdala, hippocampus, caudate, putamen, pallidum, and nucleus accumbens) and the thickness of prefrontal regions (anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortices) across both time points. Higher frequency of positive maternal behavior during the interactions predicted attenuated volumetric growth in the right amygdala, and accelerated cortical thinning in the right anterior cingulate (males only) and left and right orbitofrontal cortices, between baseline and follow up. These results have implications for understanding the biological mediators of risk and protective factors for mental disorders that have onset during adolescence.
    11/2013; 8. DOI:10.1016/j.dcn.2013.10.006
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