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<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:sec><jats:title>Background</jats:title><jats:p>Experiences of chronic stress and trauma are major risk factors for psychiatric illness. Evidence suggests that adversity-related changes in brain structure and function accelerate this vulnerability. It is yet to be determined whether neuroendocrine effects on the brain are a result of the interference with neural development during sensitive periods or a consequence of cumulative lifetime adversity. To address this question, the present study investigated the associations between brain structure and self-reported data of childhood and adult adversity using machine learning techniques and structural equation models (SEM).</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Methods</jats:title><jats:p>The UK Biobank resource was used to access Imaging Derived Phenotypes (IDPs) of grey matter and white matter tract integrity of 7003 participants, together with selected childhood and adult adversity data. Latent measures of adversity and imaging phenotypes were estimated to evaluate their associations using SEM.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Results</jats:title><jats:p>We demonstrated that increased incidence of childhood adversity events may be associated with smaller grey matter in frontal, insular, subcallosal and cerebellar regions of the brain. There were no significant associations between brain phenotypes and negative experiences during adulthood.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Conclusions</jats:title><jats:p>Using a large population cohort dataset, this study contributes to the suggestion that childhood adversity may determine grey matter reductions in brain regions, which are putatively sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of chronic stress. Furthermore, it provides novel evidence to support the “sensitive periods” model though which adversity affects the brain.</jats:p></jats:sec>

Original publication




Journal article


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Publication Date