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Resting-state functional connectivity in adults with childhood emotional maltreatment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 December 2012

S. J. A. van der Werff*
Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, The Netherlands National Initiative Brain and Cognition, The Netherlands
J. N. Pannekoek
Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, The Netherlands
I. M. Veer
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, The Netherlands Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands
M.-J. van Tol
BCN Neuroimaging Center, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
A. Aleman
BCN Neuroimaging Center, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
D. J. Veltman
Department of Psychiatry, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
F. G. Zitman
Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands
S. A. R. B. Rombouts
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, The Netherlands Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands
B. M. Elzinga
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, The Netherlands Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands
N. J. A. van der Wee
Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, The Netherlands National Initiative Brain and Cognition, The Netherlands
*Address for correspondence: Mr S. J. A. van der Werff, Leiden University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, B1-P, PO Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands. (Email:



Childhood emotional maltreatment (CEM) has been associated with disturbances in emotional and behavioral functioning, and with changes in regional brain morphology. However, whether CEM has any effect on the intrinsic organization of the brain is not known. In this study, we investigated the effects of CEM on resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) using seeds in the limbic network, the default-mode network (DMN) and the salience network, and the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC).


Using 3-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), resting-state functional MRI (RS-fMRI) scans were obtained. We defined seeds in the bilateral amygdala, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the left dmPFC, and used these to examine whether individuals reporting CEM (n=44) differed from individuals reporting no CEM (n=44) in RSFC with other brain regions. The two groups were matched for age, gender, handedness and the presence of psychopathology.


CEM was associated with decreased RSFC between the right amygdala and the bilateral precuneus and a cluster extending from the left insula to the hippocampus and putamen. In addition, CEM was associated with decreased RSFC between the dACC and the precuneus and also frontal regions of the brain.


We found that CEM has a profound effect on RSFC in the limbic network and the salience network. Regions that show aberrant connectivity are related to episodic memory encoding, retrieval and self-processing operations.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

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