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Early childhood deprivation is associated with alterations in adult brain structure despite subsequent environmental enrichment

Early childhood deprivation is associated with alterations in adult brain structure despite subsequent environmental enrichment
Early childhood deprivation is associated with alterations in adult brain structure despite subsequent environmental enrichment
Early childhood deprivation is associated with higher rates of neurodevelopmental and mental disorders in adulthood. The impact of childhood deprivation on the adult brain and the extent to which structural changes underpin these effects is currently unknown. To investigate these questions, we utilized MRI data collected from young adults, who were exposed to severe deprivation in early childhood in the Romanian orphanages of the Ceaușescu era and then subsequently adopted by UK families. 67 Romanian adoptees (with between 3-41 months of deprivation) were compared to 21 non-deprived UK adoptees. Romanian adoptees had substantially smaller total brain volumes (TBV) than non-deprived adoptees (8.6% reduction) and TBV was strongly negatively associated with deprivation duration. This effect persisted after covarying for potential environmental and genetic confounds. In whole-brain analyses, deprived adoptees showed lower right inferior frontal surface area and volume, but greater right inferior temporal lobe thickness, surface area, and volume than the non-deprived adoptees. Right medial prefrontal volume and surface area were positively associated with deprivation duration. No deprivation-related effects were observed in limbic regions. Global reductions in TBV statistically mediated the observed relationship between institutionalization and both lower IQ and higher levels of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. The deprivation-related increase in right inferior temporal volume appeared to be compensatory, as it was associated with lower levels of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. We provide compelling evidence that time-limited severe deprivation in the first years of life is related to alterations in adult brain structure, despite extended enrichment in adoptive homes in the intervening years.
0027-8424
Mackes, Nuria
0ade154d-e560-4675-a863-5e16e0ffcd54
Golm, Dennis
ae337f61-561e-4d44-9cf3-3e5611c7b484
Sarkar, Sagari
66e7e4d0-92d2-4900-8274-14f6459af3a6
Kumsta, Robert
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Rutter, Michael
c58bfa2b-e6cf-4a67-9e76-9e20e7695aa4
Fairchild, Graeme F.
f99bc911-978e-48c2-9754-c6460666a95f
Mehta, Mitul A.
656d4095-c3a0-4161-8cb7-0dafcaf1404e
Sonuga-Barke, Edmund
180c5d1b-8848-41e4-ba25-2b6461a05b5e
Mackes, Nuria
0ade154d-e560-4675-a863-5e16e0ffcd54
Golm, Dennis
ae337f61-561e-4d44-9cf3-3e5611c7b484
Sarkar, Sagari
66e7e4d0-92d2-4900-8274-14f6459af3a6
Kumsta, Robert
0a5e2361-6b7c-4c66-b9fd-1210d3306402
Rutter, Michael
c58bfa2b-e6cf-4a67-9e76-9e20e7695aa4
Fairchild, Graeme F.
f99bc911-978e-48c2-9754-c6460666a95f
Mehta, Mitul A.
656d4095-c3a0-4161-8cb7-0dafcaf1404e
Sonuga-Barke, Edmund
180c5d1b-8848-41e4-ba25-2b6461a05b5e

Mackes, Nuria, Golm, Dennis, Sarkar, Sagari, Kumsta, Robert, Rutter, Michael, Fairchild, Graeme F., Mehta, Mitul A. and Sonuga-Barke, Edmund (2020) Early childhood deprivation is associated with alterations in adult brain structure despite subsequent environmental enrichment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1911264116).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Early childhood deprivation is associated with higher rates of neurodevelopmental and mental disorders in adulthood. The impact of childhood deprivation on the adult brain and the extent to which structural changes underpin these effects is currently unknown. To investigate these questions, we utilized MRI data collected from young adults, who were exposed to severe deprivation in early childhood in the Romanian orphanages of the Ceaușescu era and then subsequently adopted by UK families. 67 Romanian adoptees (with between 3-41 months of deprivation) were compared to 21 non-deprived UK adoptees. Romanian adoptees had substantially smaller total brain volumes (TBV) than non-deprived adoptees (8.6% reduction) and TBV was strongly negatively associated with deprivation duration. This effect persisted after covarying for potential environmental and genetic confounds. In whole-brain analyses, deprived adoptees showed lower right inferior frontal surface area and volume, but greater right inferior temporal lobe thickness, surface area, and volume than the non-deprived adoptees. Right medial prefrontal volume and surface area were positively associated with deprivation duration. No deprivation-related effects were observed in limbic regions. Global reductions in TBV statistically mediated the observed relationship between institutionalization and both lower IQ and higher levels of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. The deprivation-related increase in right inferior temporal volume appeared to be compensatory, as it was associated with lower levels of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. We provide compelling evidence that time-limited severe deprivation in the first years of life is related to alterations in adult brain structure, despite extended enrichment in adoptive homes in the intervening years.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 11 November 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 6 January 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 436771
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/436771
ISSN: 0027-8424
PURE UUID: be6292ba-19c1-418b-98f8-2690bd5fa56d
ORCID for Dennis Golm: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2950-7935
ORCID for Graeme F. Fairchild: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-7814-9938

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 07 Jan 2020 17:30
Last modified: 05 Feb 2020 01:33

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