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Impact of adverse childhood experiences on the neural correlates of inhibitory control and emotion regulation in young adulthood

Kathleen M Kelsey, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Approximately 60% of adults report experiencing an adverse childhood event (e.g., abuse, neglect, household dysfunction) prior to 19 years of age. Child maltreatment-related chronic stress is associated with brain volume reductions in pre-frontal, cerebellar, and cortico-limbic regions. These changes likely correspond to difficulties in inhibitory control and emotion regulation and associated psychopathology common among maltreatment survivors. However, few studies examined functional brain activity related to these constructs in adults with maltreatment history. The goal of this study was to examine functional brain differences in inhibitory control and emotion regulation between young adults with (maltreated), and without (controls) a history of adverse childhood events, including abuse, neglect, and parental domestic violence. The ERP and brain correlates of response inhibition under normal and frustrating conditions were examined during a Go/No-Go task. Potential confounding variables including gender, IQ, PTSD symptoms, and number of adverse childhood experiences were controlled for in all analyses. Results indicated that maltreated participants showed poorer accuracy to No-go trials during baseline, but not frustration conditions, indicating behavioral differences in inhibitory control but not emotion regulation. Brain activity in the pre-supplementary motor area and rostral anterior cingulate cortex increased between the baseline and frustration conditions for all participants, but only returned to baseline levels for the maltreatment group. Brain activity in the orbital frontal cortex was unrelated to child maltreatment. This study replicated previous findings indicating that child maltreatment is related to poorer inhibitory control in adulthood. Additionally, brain areas involved in motor (pre-SMA) and emotion (rACC) modulation showed differential patterns of activation for maltreated participants following frustration, providing evidence that child maltreatment is associated with differences in emotion processing in adulthood. These differences in inhibitory control and emotion processing likely play a role in the adverse social and psychological outcomes observed among adults with maltreatment history, and may also impact cognition in everyday life.

Subject Area

Neurosciences|Behavioral psychology|Developmental psychology|Clinical psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Kelsey, Kathleen M, "Impact of adverse childhood experiences on the neural correlates of inhibitory control and emotion regulation in young adulthood" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3667007.