Altered centromedial amygdala functional connectivity in adults is associated with childhood emotional abuse and predicts levels of depression and anxiety.


BACKGROUND: Childhood maltreatment is significantly associated with greater occurrence of mental disorders in adulthood such as depression and anxiety. As a key node of the limbic system, the amygdala is engaged in emotional processing and regulation and is dysfunctional in many psychiatric disorders. The present study aimed at exploring the association between childhood maltreatment and amygdala-based functional networks and their potential contributions to depression and anxiety. METHODS: Totally 90 Chinese healthy volunteers participated in a resting-state fMRI experiment. Levels of childhood maltreatment experience were assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ-SF) as well as levels of depression and anxiety. Associations between CTQ-SF scores and bilateral amygdala gray matter volume and resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) of the amygdala and selected regions of interest were analyzed using multiple regression analyses with sex and age as covariates. A subsequent moderation analysis was performed to identify whether associations were predictive of depression and anxiety levels. RESULTS: Childhood maltreatment was significantly negatively associated with RSFC between left amygdala and anterior insula. Further sub-region analyses revealed that this negative association only occurred for the left centromedial amygdala subregion, which subsequently moderated the relationship between levels of childhood emotional abuse and depression / anxiety. LIMITATIONS: No psychiatric patients were involved and specific neural associations with different childhood maltreatment subtypes need to be examined in future studies. CONCLUSION: The present findings provide evidence for altered RSFC of centromedial amygdala and the anterior insula associated with childhood maltreatment and which moderate levels of depression and anxiety in adulthood.