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Early developmental emergence of human amygdala-prefrontal connectivity after maternal deprivation.

  • Author(s): Gee, Dylan G
  • Gabard-Durnam, Laurel J
  • Flannery, Jessica
  • Goff, Bonnie
  • Humphreys, Kathryn L
  • Telzer, Eva H
  • Hare, Todd A
  • Bookheimer, Susan Y
  • Tottenham, Nim
  • et al.
Abstract

Under typical conditions, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connections with the amygdala are immature during childhood and become adult-like during adolescence. Rodent models show that maternal deprivation accelerates this development, prompting examination of human amygdala-mPFC phenotypes following maternal deprivation. Previously institutionalized youths, who experienced early maternal deprivation, exhibited atypical amygdala-mPFC connectivity. Specifically, unlike the immature connectivity (positive amygdala-mPFC coupling) of comparison children, children with a history of early adversity evidenced mature connectivity (negative amygdala-mPFC coupling) and thus, resembled the adolescent phenotype. This connectivity pattern was mediated by the hormone cortisol, suggesting that stress-induced modifications of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis shape amygdala-mPFC circuitry. Despite being age-atypical, negative amygdala-mPFC coupling conferred some degree of reduced anxiety, although anxiety was still significantly higher in the previously institutionalized group. These findings suggest that accelerated amygdala-mPFC development is an ontogenetic adaptation in response to early adversity.

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