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Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Jul 21. pii: S0006-3223(17)31809-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.07.009. [Epub ahead of print]

Intergenerational Effect of Maternal Exposure to Childhood Maltreatment on Newborn Brain Anatomy.

Author information

1
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Department of Medical Psychology, Berlin, Germany; Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Institute of Psychology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
2
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Department of Medical Psychology, Berlin, Germany; Development, Health, and Disease Research Program, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California; Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California.
3
Development, Health, and Disease Research Program, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California; Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California.
4
Departments of Psychiatry and Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
5
Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Institute of Psychology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
6
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Department of Medical Psychology, Berlin, Germany; Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Department of Biobehavioral Health, College of Health and Human Development, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania.
7
Development, Health, and Disease Research Program, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California; Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California; Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California; Department of Epidemiology, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California.
8
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Department of Medical Psychology, Berlin, Germany; Development, Health, and Disease Research Program, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California; Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California. Electronic address: claudia.buss@charite.de.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Childhood maltreatment (CM) confers deleterious long-term consequences, and growing evidence suggests some of these effects may be transmitted across generations. We examined the intergenerational effect of maternal CM exposure on child brain structure and also addressed the hypothesis that this effect may start during the child's intrauterine period of life.

METHODS:

A prospective longitudinal study was conducted in a clinical convenience sample of 80 mother-child dyads. Maternal CM exposure was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Structural magnetic resonance imaging was employed to characterize newborn global and regional brain (tissue) volumes near the time of birth.

RESULTS:

CM exposure was reported by 35% of the women. Maternal CM exposure was associated with lower child intracranial volume (F1,70 = 6.84, p = .011), which was primarily due to a global difference in cortical gray matter (F1,70 = 9.10, p = .004). The effect was independent of potential confounding variables, including maternal socioeconomic status, obstetric complications, obesity, recent interpersonal violence, pre- and early postpartum stress, gestational age at birth, infant sex, and postnatal age at magnetic resonance imaging scan. The observed group difference between offspring of CM-exposed mothers versus nonexposed mothers was 6%.

CONCLUSIONS:

These findings represent the first report to date associating maternal CM exposure with variation in newborn brain structure. These observations support our hypothesis of intergenerational transmission of the effects of maternal CM exposure on child brain development and suggest this effect may originate during the child's intrauterine period of life, which may have downstream neurodevelopmental consequences.

KEYWORDS:

Brain development; Childhood maltreatment; Gray matter volume; Intergenerational transmission; Newborn; Pregnancy

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