Child abuse disrupts brain, may cause depression – study

2012-08-01 14:27

Paris – Children who suffer or witness physical abuse undergo changes to their brain structure that may predispose them to depression and substance abuse later in life, a study said.

The finding holds promise for early detection and pre-emptive counselling already in adolescence – a crucial phase of physical and emotional development and brain maturation, said researchers in the United States today.

Using a specialised MRI scanning technique, “we identified microstructural disruption at certain locations of the white matter tracts of adolescents who experienced maltreatment during childhood,” researcher Hao Huang told AFP.

White matter tracts or nerve fibres, comparable to computer network cables, connect the grey matter in the brain’s different processing regions – transmitting signals to ensure they “talk” with each other efficiently.

Nineteen adolescents who had suffered physical or sexual abuse before the age of 10 or witnessed domestic violence that lasted six months or longer, took part in the study, as well as a control group of 13 with no abuse history.

Those in the abused group were physically and mentally healthy at the time they were recruited at an average age of 16, and were not abusing alcohol or drugs at the time.

All the teenagers were followed at six-month intervals for up to five years.

“We found that adolescents with maltreatment history who had disrupted white matter tracts during the initial recruitment were more likely to develop depressive and addictive disorders,” said Huang of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre’s Advanced Imaging Research Centre.

Five of the 19 abuse victims developed depression later, compared to one in the control group, while four became substance abusers compared to one control teenager.

Two from the maltreated group developed both conditions, said the study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The adolescents exposed to childhood abuse as well as those who later developed depression had significantly lower FA values – a measure of white matter efficiency.

“We believe that... brain scans might be helpful in identifying youngsters who are at high risk for developing these disorders and target them for early preventive intervention,” said Huang.

Earlier studies had observed similar white matter changes in individuals with a history of abuse, but this was the first to find a link to later psychological problems.

Huang said the exact mechanism by which the white matter tracts were disrupted was not yet understood and required further investigation. 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.