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Insecure attachment during infancy predicts greater amygdala volumes in early adulthood

Moutsiana, C., Johnstone, T., Murray, L., Fearon, P., Cooper, P. J., Pliatsikas, C., Goodyer, I. and Halligan, S. L. (2014) Insecure attachment during infancy predicts greater amygdala volumes in early adulthood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56 (5). pp. 540-548. ISSN 0021-9630

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12317

Abstract/Summary

Background The quality of the early environment is hypothesized to be an influence on morphological development in key neural areas related to affective responding, but direct evidence to support this possibility is limited. In a 22-year longitudinal study, we examined hippocampal and amygdala volumes in adulthood in relation to early infant attachment status, an important indicator of the quality of the early caregiving environment. Methods Participants (N = 59) were derived from a prospective longitudinal study of the impact of maternal postnatal depression on child development. Infant attachment status (24 Secure; 35 Insecure) was observed at 18 months of age, and MRI assessments were completed at 22 years. Results In line with hypotheses, insecure versus secure infant attachment status was associated with larger amygdala volumes in young adults, an effect that was not accounted for by maternal depression history. We did not find early infant attachment status to predict hippocampal volumes. Conclusions Common variations in the quality of early environment are associated with gross alterations in amygdala morphology in the adult brain. Further research is required to establish the neural changes that underpin the volumetric differences reported here, and any functional implications.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:40410
Publisher:Wiley

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