Adult attachment insecurity and hippocampal cell density

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2010 Mar;5(1):39-47. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsp042. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


Recent findings associate attachment insecurity (assessed as levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance) with poor emotion regulation. In turn, emotion regulation has been shown to be associated with hippocampus (HC) functioning and structure. Clinical disorders such as depression and PTSD, which have been previously associated with attachment insecurity, are also known to be linked with reduced hippocampal cell density. This suggests that attachment insecurity may also be associated with reduced hippocampal cell density. We examined this hypothesis using T1 images of 22 healthy young adults. In line with our hypothesis, attachment avoidance was associated with bilateral HC reduction, whereas attachment anxiety was significantly related to reduced cell concentration in the left HC. The findings are compatible with a neurotoxical model of stress-induced cell reduction in the HC, providing further information on emotion regulation abilities among insecurely attached individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cell Count
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior