Understanding heterogeneity in grey matter research of adults with childhood maltreatment—A meta-analysis and review

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Childhood trauma has been associated with long term effects on prefrontal-limbic grey matter. A literature search was conducted to identify structural magnetic resonance imaging studies of adults with a history of childhood trauma. We performed three meta-analyses. Hedges' g effect sizes were calculated for each study providing hippocampal or amygdala volumes of trauma and non-trauma groups. Seed based differential mapping was utilised to synthesise whole brain voxel based morphometry (VBM) studies. A total of 38 articles (17 hippocampus, 13 amygdala, 19 whole brain VBM) were included in the meta-analyses. Trauma cohorts exhibited smaller hippocampus and amygdala volumes bilaterally. The most robust findings of the whole brain VBM meta-analysis were reduced grey matter in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and right hippocampus amongst adults with a history of childhood trauma. Subgroup analyses and meta-regressions showed results were moderated by age, gender, the cohort's psychiatric health and the study's definition of childhood trauma. We provide evidence of abnormal grey matter in prefrontal-limbic brain regions of adults with a history of childhood maltreatment.

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