Background: Childhood abuse has been associated with abnormalities in brain development, particularly corpus callosum (CC) morphology. The impact of neglect has not been assessed, though it is the most prevalent form of childhood maltreatment.
Methods: Regional CC area was measured from magnetic resonance imaging scans in 26 boys and 25 girls admitted for psychiatric evaluation (28 with abuse or neglect) and compared with CC area in 115 healthy control subjects. Data were analyzed by multivariate analysis of covariance, with age and midsagittal area as covariates.
Results: Total CC area of the abused/neglected patients was 17% smaller than in control subjects (p =.0001) and 11% smaller than in psychiatric patients who had not been abused or neglected (contrast group; p =.01). Control subjects and the contrast group did not differ in total CC area. Neglect was the strongest experiential factor and was associated with a 15%-18% reduction in CC regions 3, 4, 5, and 7 (all p <.02). In contrast, sexual abuse seemed to be the strongest factor associated with reduced CC size in girls.
Conclusions: These data are consistent with animal research that demonstrated reduced CC size in nursery-reared compared with semi-naturally reared primates. Early experience might also affect the development of the human CC.