Physical neglect during childhood alters white matter connectivity in healthy young males

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Childhood adversity (CA) leads to greater vulnerability for psychopathology by causing structural as well as functional brain abnormalities. Recent findings on gray matter effects point towards the importance of identifying CA outcome as a function of different CA types, varying in the dimensions of threat and deprivation. Using diffusion tensor imaging, we investigate whether different forms of CA impact differently on white matter connectivity in a healthy cohort not confounded by other aspects of disease. Methods: In 120 healthy young males, we assessed different forms of maltreatment during childhood with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) images were generated and projected onto a white matter skeleton using tract-based spatial statistics. Correlational analysis between FA, MD, and CTQ subscores was then performed using voxelwise statistics. Results: Of all CTQ-subscores, only physical neglect (PN) predicted a decrease of FA but not MD in the bilateral anterior thalamic radiation around the middle frontal gyrus and the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, the inferior longitudinal fasciculus, the cingulum and precuneus. Reduced FA in the posterior cingulum was related to the effects of PN during childhood on anxiety levels at trend level. Conclusions: PN may have severe consequences and should be considered equally important to more active forms of abuse. FA changes, particularly in the cingulum, actually appear to a functional consequence and are linked to trait anxiety, a personality dimension that is suggested to be a transdiagnostic risk factor of affective disorders. Potentially this reveals a mechanistic chain that forms one pathyway from CA to disease.


External organisations
  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
  • Max Planck Institute for Human Development
  • Radboud University Medical Center
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Neurosciences


  • Childhood adversity, Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), Fractional anisotropy, Healthy controls, Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1283-1290
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number3
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar
Publication categoryResearch