Effect of childhood adversity on brain dopamine function in adulthood

Presentation First Author: 
Alice Egerton

Traumatic experiences during childhood increase the risk of psychosis illness. Abnormal dopamine function is a key feature of psychotic disorders and a plausible mediator of an effect of childhood stressors on risk of later illness. This study investigated whether, in young healthy adults and in those at clinical high risk of psychosis, experience of childhood adversity was associated increased presynaptic dopamine function in the striatum. Forty-seven young adults who met operationalized criteria for ultra high risk (UHR) of psychosis, and 20 healthy volunteers participated in this study. Childhood adversity was assessed using the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Questionnaire. Striatal presynaptic dopamine function was assessed using 18F-DOPA positron emission tomography. Dopamine function was elevated in participants who had experienced severe physical or sexual abuse (T63 = 2.92; P = 0.005) or multiple family arrangements (T57 = 2.80; P=0.007) in childhood. Both findings were above the corrected threshold for statistical significance (P=0.0125). These data suggest that exposure to childhood psychosocial stressors that increase risk of developing psychosis in later life is associated with elevated striatal dopamine function in early adulthood.

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
January, 2015
Additional Authors: 
Lucia R Valmaggia - Oliver D Howes - Fern Day - Christopher A Chaddock - Paul Allen - Toby T Winton-Brown - Michael AP Bloomfield - Sagnik Bhattacharyya - Julia Lappin - Robin M Murray - Philip K McGuire
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