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The neural correlates of Childhood Trauma Questionnaire scores in adults: A meta-analysis and review of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2017

Sarah J. Heany*
University of Cape Town
Nynke A. Groenewold
University of Cape Town
Anne Uhlmann
University of Cape Town Stellenbosch University
Shareefa Dalvie
University of Cape Town
Dan J. Stein
University of Cape Town
Samantha J. Brooks
University of Cape Town
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sarah Heany, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur Hospital, J2 Block, Anzio Road, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa; E-mail:


Childhood maltreatment, including abuse and neglect, may have sustained effects on the integrity and functioning of the brain, alter neurophysiological responsivity later in life, and predispose individuals toward psychiatric conditions involving socioaffective disturbances. This meta-analysis aims to quantify associations between self-reported childhood maltreatment and brain function in response to socioaffective cues in adults. Seventeen functional magnetic resonance imaging studies reporting on data from 848 individuals examined with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were included in a meta-analysis of whole-brain findings, or a review of region of interest findings. The spatial consistency of peak activations associated with maltreatment exposure was tested using activation likelihood estimation, using a threshold of p < .05 corrected for multiple comparisons. Adults exposed to childhood maltreatment showed significantly increased activation in the left superior frontal gyrus and left middle temporal gyrus, and decreased activation in the left superior parietal lobule and the left hippocampus. Although hyperresponsivity to socioaffective cues in the amygdala and ventral anterior cingulate cortex in correlation with maltreatment severity is a replicated finding in region of interest studies, null results are reported as well. The findings suggest that childhood maltreatment has sustained effects on brain function into adulthood, and highlight potential mechanisms for conveying vulnerability to development of psychopathology.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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The first two authors contributed equally to this article. Dan J. Stein is supported by the Medical Research Council of South Africa; Samantha J. Brooks and Nynke A. Groenewold were supported by the Claude Leon Foundation, South Africa; Samantha J. Brooks was also supported by NIH Grant NIDA R21 DA040492; Sarah J. Heany was supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust; and Anne Uhlmann was supported by a Stellenbosch University Subcommittee C postdoctoral fellowship.


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