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Functional brain plasticity following childhood maltreatment: A longitudinal fMRI investigation of autobiographical memory processing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

V. B. Puetz, E. Viding, E. A. Maguire, A. Mechelli, D. Armbruster-Genç, M. Sharp, G. Rankin, M. I. Gerin, E. J. Mccrory

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Early online date20 Dec 2021
Accepted/In press2021
E-pub ahead of print20 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work was funded by a grant to E.MC and E.V from the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council (ES/K005723/1). E.M is supported by a Wellcome Principal Research Fellowship (210567/Z/18/Z). Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.

King's Authors


Altered autobiographical memory (ABM) processing characterizes some individuals with experiences of childhood maltreatment. This fMRI study of ABM processing evaluated potential developmental plasticity in neural functioning following maltreatment. Adolescents with (N = 19; MT group) and without (N = 18; Non-MT group) documented childhood maltreatment recalled specific ABMs in response to emotionally valenced cue words during fMRI at baseline (age 12.71 ± 1.48) and follow-up (14.88 ± 1.53 years). Psychological assessments were collected at both timepoints. Longitudinal analyses were carried out with BOLD signal changes during ABM recall and psychopathology to investigate change over time. In both groups there was relative stability of the ABM brain network, with some developmental maturational changes observed in cortical midline structures (ventromedial PFC (vmPFC), posterior cingulate cortex (pCC), and retrosplenial cortex (rSC). Significantly increased activation of the right rSC was observed only in the MT group, which was associated with improved psychological functioning. Baseline group differences in relation to hippocampal functioning, were not detected at follow-up. This study provides preliminary empirical evidence of functional developmental plasticity in children with documented maltreatment experience using fMRI. This suggests that altered patterns of brain function, associated with maltreatment experience, are not fixed and may reflect the potential to track a neural basis of resilience.

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