The impact of type, frequency, and age of exposure to childhood maltreatment on cerebellar volume
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The purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationship between exposure to childhood maltreatment and the development of the cerebellum. Reduced volumes in certain brain structures have been discovered in childhood maltreatment survivors, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and corpus callosum (Bremmer, et al., 1997; De Bellis, et al., 1999; Jackowski, et al., 2007; Teicher, et al., 2003; Teicher, et al., 2012). Furthermore, a number of studies have examined the impact of childhood abuse on cerebellar volume, suggesting that the cerebellum is susceptible to the effects of early stress (Anderson, et al., 2002; Bauer, et al., 2009; Beers & De Bellis, 2002; Carrion, et al., 2009; De Bellis & Kuchibhatla, 2006). However, few studies have examined the relation between type, frequency, and timing of maltreatment and cerebellar volume. The current study proposed to examine cerebellar volume in relation to type, frequency, and timing of maltreatment with a considerably large sample size. It was hypothesized that there would be a significant relation between type, frequency, and timing of maltreatment and cerebellar volume. Participants were young adults, ages 18-25 who fell along a continuum of maltreatment exposure (n=128). First, results suggest that exposure to maltreatment during childhood predicted smaller cerebellar volume. Second, unique clusters of cerebellar regions of interest (ROIs) were found to be significantly impacted by specific types of maltreatment experienced at certain ages, suggesting “developmental windows of vulnerability.” Third, results indicate that severity of maltreatment exposure was only predictive of reduced cerebellar volume in a very small region of the cerebellum. Finally, results suggest that type and timing of maltreatment predicted reduced cerebellar volume in the right hemisphere, the vermis, Crus II, and total cerebellar volume, according to the gender of participants. These results indicate that the cerebellum is negatively impacted by exposure to childhood maltreatment, that different types of maltreatment impact cerebellar volume differently, and that there may be sensitive periods of cerebellar development that make it more vulnerable to exposure to maltreatment. The importance of type and timing of maltreatment may also be different based on gender. Furthermore, results indicate that exposure to maltreatment during a cerebellar sensitive period may be more impactful compared to frequency, duration, or severity of maltreatment exposure.