Childhood maltreatment, prefrontal-paralimbic gray matter volume, and substance use in young adults and interactions with risk for bipolar disorder

Dylan E. Kirsch, Valeria Tretyak, Sepeadeh Radpour, Wade A. Weber, Charles B. Nemeroff, Kim Fromme, Stephen M. Strakowski, Elizabeth T.C. Lippard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Childhood maltreatment is associated with adverse effects on the brain, and an increased risk for psychopathology, including mood and substance use disorders. Individuals vary on the degree to which they exhibit neurobiological and clinical differences following maltreatment. Individuals with bipolar disorder exhibit greater magnitude of maltreatment-related prefrontal-paralimbic gray matter volume (GMV) deficits compared to typically developing individuals. It is unclear if greater structural differences stem from greater neural vulnerability to maltreatment in bipolar disorder, or if they relate to presence of other clinical features associated with childhood maltreatment, e.g., elevated prevalence of comorbid substance use disorders. To investigate this, we compared young adults with a family history of bipolar disorder (n = 21), but who did not fulfill diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, with typically developing young adults without a family history of bipolar disorder (n = 26). Participants completed structural neuroimaging, clinical and family history interviews, and assessment of childhood maltreatment and recent alcohol and cannabis use patterns. We examined relations between childhood maltreatment and prefrontal-paralimbic GMV by modeling main effects of maltreatment and family history group by maltreatment interactions on prefrontal-paralimbic GMV. We also examined relations between maltreatment and associated GMV changes with recent alcohol and cannabis use. Childhood maltreatment correlated with lower ventral, rostral and dorsolateral prefrontal and insular cortical GMV across all participants regardless of the presence or absence of familial history of bipolar disorder. However, exploratory analyses did reveal greater maltreatment-related GMV differences in individuals with prodromal symptoms of depression. Lower insula GMV was associated with greater frequency of cannabis use across all participants and greater quantity of alcohol use only in those with familial risk for bipolar disorder. Results suggest familial risk for bipolar disorder, and presumably genetic risk, may relate to outcomes following childhood maltreatment and should be considered in prevention/early intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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