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Heightened amygdala reactivity and increased stress generation predict internalizing symptoms in adults following childhood maltreatment

Gerin, MI; Viding, E; Pingault, J-B; Putz, V; Knodt, AR; Radtke, SR; Brigidi, BD; ... McCrory, E; + view all (2019) Heightened amygdala reactivity and increased stress generation predict internalizing symptoms in adults following childhood maltreatment. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry , 60 (7) pp. 752-761. 10.1111/jcpp.13041.

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Abstract

Background: Childhood maltreatment is one of the most potent predictors of future psychopathology, including internalizing disorders. It remains unclear whether heightened amygdala reactivity to threat and elevated stress exposure may be implicated in the pathogenesis and maintenance of internalizing disorders among individuals with a history of childhood maltreatment. / Methods: Using data from a sample of 1,144 young adults, we investigated the contribution of baseline threat‐related amygdala reactivity and prospective major stressful life events to internalizing symptoms severity 1 year later (on average) in individuals with a history of maltreatment (n = 100) and propensity score matched nonmaltreated peers (n = 96). / Results: Even after stringently matching for several potentially confounding variables – including baseline internalizing symptoms, socioeconomic status and IQ – childhood maltreatment status predicted increased amygdala reactivity at baseline, elevated post‐baseline exposure to major stressful life events and internalizing symptoms at follow‐up. We also showed, for the first time, that amygdala reactivity at baseline and also post‐baseline exposure to major stressful life events mediated the association between a history of maltreatment and future internalizing symptoms. / Conclusions: These findings provide support for the view that maltreatment is a potent developmental insult leading to long‐lasting neurocognitive recalibrations of the threat processing system. It is possible that such alterations, over time, may impact mental health functioning by compromising the ability to effectively negotiate everyday challenges (stress susceptibility). These alterations were not, however, found to sensitize an individual to the impact of major stressful life events. The results of this study also lend compelling support to the view that increased psychiatric risk, in the context of childhood maltreatment, follows from an increased propensity to experience major stressful life events (stress generation).

Type: Article
Title: Heightened amygdala reactivity and increased stress generation predict internalizing symptoms in adults following childhood maltreatment
DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.13041
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13041
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Maltreatment, child abuse, amygdala, stress, internalizing disorder
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10068362
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