Article

The link between child abuse and psychopathology: A review of neurobiological and genetic research

University College London (UCL), London WC1H 0AP, UK.
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.12). 04/2012; 105(4):151-6. DOI: 10.1258/jrsm.2011.110222
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Childhood abuse is associated with later psychopathology, including conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, anxiety and depression as well as a heightened risk of health and social problems. However, the neurobiological mechanisms by which childhood adversity increases vulnerability to psychopathology remain poorly understood. There is likely to be a complex interaction between environmental experiences (such as abuse) and individual differences in risk versus protective genes, which influences the neurobiological circuitry underpinning psychological and emotional development. Neuroendocrine studies indicate an association between early adversity and atypical development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress response, which may predispose to psychiatric vulnerability in adulthood. Brain imaging research in children and adults is providing evidence of several structural and functional brain differences associated with early adversity. Structural differences have been reported in the corpus callosum, cerebellum and prefrontal cortex. Functional differences have been reported in regions implicated in emotional and behavioural regulation, including the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex. These differences at the neurobiological level may represent adaptations to early experiences of heightened stress that lead to an increased risk of psychopathology. We also consider the clinical implications of future neurobiological and genetic research.

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Available from: Stephane A De Brito, Apr 24, 2015
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    • "ELS-related alterations of function of these regions have been reported previously by others (e.g. (Brydges et al., 2013;Coplan et al., 2010;Hui et al., 2011;Lippmann et al., 2007;Lukas et al., 2011;McCrory et al., 2012;Suzuki et al., 2014;Vicentic et al., 2006)). The 'Sex x ELS' interaction was particularly prominent in the globus pallidus (Fig. 6, column 4, AP -1.2 mm). "
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    • "In the first study to document this effect,Caspi et al. (2002)found that among individuals who had experienced early adversity, carriers of a low activity MAOA-1 allele were at particular risk for antisocial behavior. Follow-up research has shown that this polymorphism is associated with an exaggerated neurocognitive response to threat and reduced activity in the brain regions involved in emotion regulation, suggesting a heightened vulnerability to aggressive or reactive behaviors (McCrory et al., 2012). Other notable studies have focused on Gene × Environment interactions of early adversity that predict later life depression based on polymorphisms of the serotonin transporter gene, which influences the availability of the serotonin neurotransmitter at neuronal synapses (Banny et al., 2013;Cutuli et al., 2013). "

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    • "Moreover, children adapt as readily to a negative environment as to a positive one (Howe, 2005; McCrory, De Brito & Viding, 2012), making it very difficult for those who have developed maladaptive attachment styles in response to a hostile environment to subsequently respond appropriately to nurturing environments, for instance, upon placement with adoptive carers (Egeland, 2009; Selwyn et al., 2014). Not only do abuse and neglect in infancy impact on children's ability to form attachments and trust others, they also affect their cognitive and behavioural development – for instance, neglected infants and toddlers show more evidence of poor social skills, difficulties in communication and language, and inadequate coping abilities (Hildyard & Wolfe, 2002). "
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