Preliminary evidence for sensitive periods in the effect of childhood sexual abuse on regional brain development

J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2008 Summer;20(3):292-301. doi: 10.1176/jnp.2008.20.3.292.


Volumetric MRI scans from 26 women with repeated episodes of childhood sexual abuse and 17 healthy female comparison subjects (ages 18-22 years) were analyzed for sensitive period effects on hippocampal and amygdala volume, frontal cortex gray matter volume and corpus callosum area. Hippocampal volume was reduced in association with childhood sexual abuse at ages 3-5 years and ages 11-13 years. Corpus callosum was reduced with childhood sexual abuse at ages 9-10 years, and frontal cortex was attenuated in subjects with childhood sexual abuse at ages 14-16 years. Brain regions have unique windows of vulnerability to the effects of traumatic stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis
  • Young Adult