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, 78 (9), 598-605

Blunted Ventral Striatum Development in Adolescence Reflects Emotional Neglect and Predicts Depressive Symptoms

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Blunted Ventral Striatum Development in Adolescence Reflects Emotional Neglect and Predicts Depressive Symptoms

Jamie L Hanson et al. Biol Psychiatry.

Abstract

Background: Emotional neglect is associated with multiple negative outcomes, particularly increased risk for depression. Motivated by increasing evidence of reward-related ventral striatum (VS) dysfunction in depression, we investigated the role of developmental changes in VS activity on the emergence of depressive symptomatology as a function of emotional neglect.

Methods: We examined relationships between longitudinal neuroimaging of reward-related VS activity, assessments of mood, and measures of emotional neglect in 106 participants first scanned between ages 11 to 15 and then 2 years later.

Results: We found that greater levels of emotional neglect were associated with blunted development of reward-related VS activity between the first and second assessments (as indexed by lower residualized change scores). Additionally, we found that decreases in this reward-related VS activity were related to greater depressive symptomatology and partially mediated the association between emotional neglect and subsequent depressive symptomatology.

Conclusions: Our results provide an important demonstration that blunted development of reward-related VS activity as a function of emotional neglect predicts the emergence of depressive symptoms in adolescents. Further, our results are consistent with emerging evidence for the importance of reward-related VS dysfunction in the etiology and pathophysiology of depression. These results are a first step toward developing the ability to predict, prevent, and treat stress-related psychopathology through the targeting of specific neural phenotypes.

Keywords: Depression; Early life stress; Emotional neglect; Longitudinal; Neurodevelopment; fMRI.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
VS activity for the contrast of positive>negative feedback, corrected for multiple comparison correction, p<.05 corrected.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Scatterplots showing change in VS activity (vertical axis; in both panels) and EN (horizontal axis; panel a) and depressive symptoms at Scan 2 (horizontal axis; panel b)
Figure 3
Figure 3
Results from a path analysis testing a model wherein changes in VS activity mediate the relationship between EN and later depressive symptoms. Standardized regression estimates are shown for the relationship between EN and VS change (path a), between VS change and depressive symptoms at Scan 2 (path b), and between EN and depressive symptoms. The latter is shown without (path c) and also while accounting for VS change (path c′)

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