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Developing functional network connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex mediates externalizing psychopathology in adolescents with child neglect.

  • Author(s): Silveira, Sarita;
  • Boney, Simone;
  • Tapert, Susan F;
  • Mishra, Jyoti
  • et al.

Childhood adversity has been associated with elevated risk for psychopathology. We investigated whether development of functional brain networks important for executive function (EF) could serve as potential mediators of this association. We analyzed data of 475 adolescents, a subsample of the multisite longitudinal NCANDA (National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence) cohort with completed measures of childhood trauma, resting-state functional brain connectivity data, and symptoms of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology at baseline and follow-up years 1-4. Using parallel process latent growth models, we found that childhood adversity was associated with increased risk for externalizing/internalizing behaviors. We specifically investigated whether functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) to brain regions within the cingulo-opercular (CO) network, a well-known EF network that underlies control of attention and self-regulation, mediates the association between adversity and symptoms of psychopathology. We found that childhood adversity, specifically child neglect was negatively associated with functional connectivity of the dACC within the CO network, and that this connectivity mediated the association between neglect and externalizing behaviors. Our study advances a mechanistic understanding of how childhood adversity may impact the development of psychopathology, highlighting the relevance of dACC functional networks particularly for externalizing psychopathology.

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