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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 Aug;70:122-33. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.05.003. Epub 2016 May 6.

The developmental relationship between DHEA and visual attention is mediated by structural plasticity of cortico-amygdalar networks.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry and Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, McGill University Health Center (Royal Victoria Hospital at the Glen site), McGill University, Montreal, QC H4A 3J1, Canada. Electronic address: tuong.v.nguyen@mcgill.ca.
2
Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, QC H4A 3J1, Canada.
3
University of Vermont, College of Medicine, Burlington, VT 05405, USA.
4
Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA; Brain Development Cooperative Group, Canada.
5
University of Vermont, College of Medicine, Burlington, VT 05405, USA; Brain Development Cooperative Group, Canada.
6
McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal, QC H3A 2B4, Canada.
7
McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal, QC H3A 2B4, Canada; McGill University Health Centre, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 1A1, Canada.
8
Brain Development Cooperative Group, Canada; Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of California in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.

Abstract

Humans and the great apes are the only species demonstrated to exhibit adrenarche, a key developmental event leading to increased production of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), suggesting that this hormone may play an important evolutionary role. Similarly, visual attention networks have been shown to evolve in a human-specific manner, with some anatomical connections and elements of cortical organization exclusive to our species. Existing studies of human brain development support the notion that DHEA shows significant uptake in cortical structures and the amygdala, and as such, could be involved in the bottom-up regulation of visual attention. Here we examined associations between DHEA, structural covariance of the amygdala with whole-brain cortical thickness, and tests of visual attention, in a longitudinal sample of typically developing children and adolescents 6-22 years of age. We found that DHEA predicted covariance between amygdalar volume and the left occipital pole, right somatosensory parietal cortex and right anterior cingulate cortex. Amygdala-occipital covariance predicted visual awareness; amygdala-parietal covariance predicted visuo-motor dexterity and processing speed; amygdala-prefrontal covariance predicted global attentional impairment. Further, effects of DHEA were above and beyond those of age and sex, as well as distinct from those of pubertal stage, estradiol and testosterone. These findings support the notion that DHEA may play a unique role in shaping amygdala-dependent cortical plasticity and in regulating 'bottom-up' visual attention processes from childhood to young adulthood.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescents; Adrenarche; Androgen; Human brain; Visual awareness; Visuo-motor dexterity

PMID:
27236606
PMCID:
PMC4907862
DOI:
10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.05.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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