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

Gee DG, Gabard-Durnam LJ, Flannery J, Goff B, Humphreys KL, Telzer EH, Hare TA, Bookheimer SY, Tottenham N
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 110 (39): 15638-43

PMID: 24019460 · PMCID: PMC3785723 · DOI:10.1073/pnas.1307893110

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.

MeSH Terms (12)

Adolescent Amygdala Anxiety, Separation Child, Preschool Humans Hydrocortisone Institutionalization Magnetic Resonance Imaging Maternal Deprivation Nerve Net Phenotype Prefrontal Cortex

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