Altered water diffusivity in cortical association tracts in children with early deprivation identified with Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS)

Cereb Cortex. 2010 Mar;20(3):561-9. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp122. Epub 2009 Jun 22.


Institutional rearing is associated with neurocognitive and behavioral difficulties. Although such difficulties are thought to reflect abnormal neurologic development resulting from early social deprivation (ED) and there is evidence for functional abnormality in children with histories of ED, the impact of early deprivation on brain anatomy has received little study in humans. The present study utilized an objective and sensitive neuroimaging analysis technique (Tract-Based Spatial Statistics) to evaluate white matter fractional anisotropy (FA) and diffusivity in a group of right-handed children with histories of ED (n = 17; mean age = 10.9 + 2.6 years) as compared with age-matched healthy controls (n = 15; mean age = 11.7 + or - 2.8 years). Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging diffusion tensor imaging sequences and comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations. Results revealed reduced FA in frontal, temporal, and parietal white matter including components of uncinate and superior longitudinal fasciculi, in children with histories of ED, providing further support for limbic and paralimbic abnormalities in children with such histories. Furthermore, white matter abnormalities were associated with duration of time in the orphanage and with inattention and hyperactivity scores. It is suspected that the observed white matter abnormalities are associated with multiple depriving factors (e.g., poor prenatal care, postnatal stress) associated with institutional caregiving.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychosocial Deprivation*
  • Statistics as Topic