Altered amygdala connectivity in urban youth exposed to trauma

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Early life trauma exposure represents a potent risk factor for the development of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, deleterious consequences of trauma are exacerbated in youth living in impoverished, urban environments. A priori probability maps were used to examine resting-state functional connectivity (FC) of the amygdala in 21 trauma-exposed, and 21 age- and sex-matched urban children and adolescents (youth) without histories of trauma. Intrinsic FC analyses focused on amygdala-medial prefrontal circuitry, a key emotion regulatory pathway in the brain. We discovered reduced negative amygdala-subgenual cingulate connectivity in trauma-exposed youth. Differences between groups were also identified in anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate to amygdala connectivity. Overall, results suggest a model in which urban-dwelling trauma-exposed youth lack negative prefrontal to amygdala connectivity that may be critical for regulation of emotional responses. Functional changes in amygdala circuitry might reflect the biological embedding of stress reactivity in early life and mediate enhanced vulnerability to stress-related psychopathology.

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