Gray matter is the tissue that contains brain cells, the loss of which "could
help to explain their [adolescents'] trouble with school performance or increase their vulnerability to depression and behavioural difficulties,” according to one expert.
[5 November 2011] - Adolescents who were abused and neglected have less gray matter in some areas of the brain than young people who have not been maltreated, a new Yale School of Medicine study shows.
The brain areas impacted by maltreatment may differ between boys and girls, may depend on whether the youths had been exposed to abuse or neglect, and may be linked to whether the neglect was physical or emotional.
The results, published in the December 5 issue of the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, show that 42 adolescent subjects who reported being either abused or neglected show a reduction in gray matter – the tissue containing brain cells – even though they had not been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
“Here we have teenagers who may not have a diagnosable illness but still have physical evidence of maltreatment,” said Hilary Blumberg, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Diagnostic Radiology and in the Yale Child Study Center, who is senior author of the study. “This could help to explain their trouble with school performance or increase their vulnerability to depression and behavioral difficulties.”
The reduction of gray matter was seen in prefrontal areas, no matter whether the adolescent had been physically abused or emotionally neglected. However, in other areas of the brain the reductions depended upon the type of maltreatment the youth had experienced. For example, emotional neglect was associated with decreases in areas that regulate emotions.
The researchers also found gender differences in patterns of gray matter decreases. In boys, the reduction tended to be concentrated in areas of the brain associated with impulse control or substance abuse. In girls, the reduction seemed to be in areas of the brain linked to depression.
Blumberg stressed these deficits found in adolescents are likely not to be permanent.
“We have found that the brain, particularly in adolescents, shows a great deal of plasticity,” she said. “It is critical to find ways to prevent maltreatment and to help the youths who have been exposed.”
The research was funded by: the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health) and its Roadmap for Medical Research Common Fund, the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression, the Klingenstein Foundation, Women’s Health Research at Yale and the Attias Family Foundation.
Other Yale affiliated authors include Erin E. Edmiston (now of Vanderbilt University), Fei Wang, Carolyn M. Mazure, Joanne Guiney, Rajita Sinha and Linda C. Mayes.
- PAKISTAN: Children need concrete steps for their welfare (28 November 2011)
- JORDAN: Gov't must act to end violence against women, UN rights expert says (25 November 2011)
- UNITED STATES: Thousands of kids taken from parents in US deportation system (24 November 2011)
- UNITED STATES: JRC banned from shocking new admissions (21 November 2011)
- UNITED KINGDOM: Schools fail to tackle homophobic bullying (17 November 2011)
- BULLYING: Nine out of ten teenagers experience bullying and cruelty on Facebook, Twitter (14 November 2011)
- CORPORAL PUNISHMENT: Child's death sheds light on biblical disciplinary teachings (11 November 2011)
- CHINA: School children made to wear green scarf 'brandished as underachievers' (31 October 2011)
- INDIA: Kashmir's children 'mistreated in adult jails' (28 October 2011)
- UNITED KINGDOM: Child abuse and neglect in the UK today (NSPCC, September 2011)
Previous News release items
- 09/12/2011: HATE CRIME: Murderers of transgender & disabled people motivated by hate will incur harsher penalty
- 09/12/2011: BOLIVIA: Working children present bill of rights to improve their working conditions
- 09/12/2011: INDIA: 96,000 children go missing each year
- 09/12/2011: BULLYING: Homophobic bullying represents grave violation of human rights – Ban
- 09/12/2011: DISCRIMINACIÓN: El acoso homófobo es una grave violación de los derechos humanos - Ban
Organisation Contact Details:
Last updated 12/12/2011 05:07:05