Friday, August 30, 2013

Researchers Find Brain Changes in Teens Who Were Maltreated

Child maltreatment can change the brain as it develops in the teenage years, according to researchers who studied the brains of 117 adolescents using magnetic resonance imaging, first at about age 12 and then around age 16. They asked the teens about childhood maltreatment and assessed them for the presence of psychiatric disorders. They found differences in the growth of two areas of the brain known to respond to stress: the hippocampus and the amygdala.

 “Childhood maltreatment was associated with larger baseline left hippocampal volumes and retarded growth of the left amygdala over time and was indirectly associated, through the experience of psychopathology, with retarded growth of the left hippocampus and accelerated growth of the left amygdala over time,” compared with participants who were not maltreated, wrote Nicholas Allen, Ph.D., of the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at Australia's University of Melbourne, in the September Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

For more about how social adversity affects physical and mental health, see the Psychiatric News article, “Research Could Boost Prospects of Kids Harmed by Stress."

(Image: Kati Neudert/


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