Association between adverse childhood experiences and brain volumes among Japanese community-dwelling older people: Findings from the NEIGE study

Child Abuse Negl. 2022 Feb:124:105456. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2021.105456. Epub 2022 Jan 3.


Background: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can affect later-life health outcomes via brain structural differences. However, there is no sufficient empirical evidence about whether brain morphological differences remain until old ages.

Objective: We examined the association between ACEs and brain volumes among older individuals.

Participants and setting: Residents aged 65-84 years in Tokamachi City, Japan, were randomly recruited, and 491 participants were included in the analysis.

Methods: ACEs were assessed with a self-reported questionnaire. The volumes of seven brain regions of interests were evaluated via structural magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: In total, 143 (27.1%) participants experienced one ACE and 33 (6.7%) two or more ACEs. Participants with two or more ACEs had a larger anterior cingulate cortex volume (B = 0.346, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.04 to 0.66) and smaller hippocampal (B = -0.287, 95% CI = -0.58 to 0.001) and amygdala (B = -0.313, 95% CI = -0.59 to -0.03) volumes. Interestingly, we observed a distinct association between deprivation and threat. That is, deprivation was associated with a smaller amygdala volume (B = -0.164, 95% CI = -0.32 to -0.01) and threat with a larger anterior cingulate cortex volume (B = 0.401, 95% CI = 0.11 to 0.70).

Conclusions: ACEs were associated with the volumes of brain regions such as anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala, which are responsible for emotion and self-regulation in older population. The effect of ACEs on the amygdala was commonly driven by deprivation experiences and that on the anterior cingulate cortex by threat.

Keywords: Brain morphology; Childhood deprivation and threat; Childhood maltreatment; Structural magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Japan / epidemiology