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Corticolimbic circuit structure moderates an association between early life stress and later trait anxiety

By M. Justin Kim, Madeline J. Farber, Annchen R. Knodt, Ahmad R Hariri

Posted 19 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/581926 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.nicl.2019.102050)

Childhood adversity is associated with a wide range of negative behavioral and neurodevelopmental consequences. However, individuals vary substantially in their sensitivity to such adversity. Here, we examined how individual variability in structural features of the corticolimbic circuit, which plays a key role in emotional reactivity, moderates the association between childhood adversity and later trait anxiety in 798 young adult university students. Consistent with prior research, higher self-reported childhood adversity was significantly associated with higher self-reported trait anxiety. However, this association was attenuated in participants with higher microstructural integrity of the uncinate fasciculus and greater thickness of the orbitofrontal cortex. These structural properties of the corticolimbic circuit may capture a neural profile of relative resiliency to early life stress, especially against the negative effects of childhood adversity on later trait anxiety. More generally, our findings highlight the potential utility in the simultaneous consideration of qualitatively different brain structural measures in explaining complex behavioral associations in future research.

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