A Prospective Study of the Impact of Severe Childhood Deprivation on Brain White Matter in Adult Adoptees: Widespread Localized Reductions in Volume But Unaffected Microstructural Organization

the ERA Young Adult Follow-Up Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Early childhood neglect can impact brain development across the lifespan. Using voxel-based approaches we recently reported that severe and time-limited institutional deprivation in early childhood was linked to sub-stantial reductions in total brain volume in adulthood, >20 years later. Here, we extend this analysis to explore deprivation-related regional white matter volume and microstructural organization using diffusion-based techni-ques. A combination of tensor-based morphometry (TBM) analysis and tractography was conducted on diffu-sion-weighted imaging (DWI) data from 59 young adults who spent between 3 and 41 months in the severely depriving Romanian institutions of the 1980s before being adopted into United Kingdom families, and 20 non-deprived age-matched United Kingdom controls. Independent of total volume, institutional deprivation was associated with smaller volumes in localized regions across a range of white matter tracts including (1) long-ranging association fibers such as bilateral inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), bilateral inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF), left superior longitudinal fasciculi (SLFs), and left arcuate fasciculus; (2) tracts of the lim-bic circuitry including fornix and cingulum; and (3) projection fibers with the corticospinal tract particularly affected. Tractographic analysis found no evidence of altered microstructural organization of any tract in terms of hindrance modulated orientational anisotropy (HMOA), fractional anisotropy (FA), or mean diffu-sivity (MD). We provide further evidence for the effects of early neglect on brain development and their persistence in adulthood despite many years of environmental enrichment associated with successful adoption. Localized white matter effects appear limited to volumetric changes with microstructural organization unaffected.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberENEURO.0188-22.2022
JournaleNeuro
Volume9
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • brain imaging
  • early adversity
  • institutional deprivation
  • plasticity
  • tractography
  • white matter structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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