Childhood maltreatment (i.e., physical, sexual or emotional abuse by parents, peers or siblings, physical and emotional neglect) has an enormous impact on risk for substance abuse and dependence. The Adverse Childhood Experience Study reported that exposure to maltreatment-related adversity accounted for 64% of the population attributable risk for substance abuse. Understanding this association may be crucial to our efforts to prevent, preempt or treat drug abuse. During the previous funding period we conducted a series of studies to better understand the association between childhood maltreatment and substance use. We found in cross-sectional studies that exposure to physical maltreatment was a more significant risk factor for high levels of drug and alcohol use than emotional maltreatment, and that physical maltreatment (but not emotional maltreatment) was associated with marked alterations in T2-relaxation time (an indirect measures of cerebral blood volume assessed by MRI) in major components of the ascending dopamine system. T2-relaxation time in two components (dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) correlated with degree of drug and alcohol use. Further we found a strong statistical relationship between the size of the first lobule (lingula) of the cerebellar vermis in physically maltreated subjects and degree of substance use. We also found that substance use by maltreated individuals spiked at 20-21 years of age. The key aims of the proposed study are to test in a prospective study whether T2-relaxation time in dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, and large lingula size can predict degree of drug and alcohol use by maltreated individuals. Moreover, we will test the hypothesis that type and timing of exposure to maltreatment matters, and that there are sensitive periods when exposure to specific types of maltreatment are most likely to effect the development of these brain regions? and to increase risk for drug abuse. This information will shed new light on our understanding of the relationship between maltreatment and drug abuse by examining the phenomenon from a developmental neuroscience perspective. These studies may provide the critical insights necessary to design programs to protect children during their most vulnerable periods, and to develop preemptive strategies to aid exposed individuals before their vulnerability becomes manifest.

Public Health Relevance

Childhood maltreatment is a leading risk factor for drug abuse. We will study the problem from a developmental neuroscience perspective, and test the hypothesis that maltreatment during sensitive periods affects the development of dopamine system and cerebellum, and that alterations in these regions can predict risk for high levels of drug use in a prospective longitudinal study.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Risk, Prevention and Intervention for Addictions Study Section (RPIA)
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Gordon, Harold
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Mclean Hospital
United States
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Polcari, Ann; Rabi, Keren; Bolger, Elizabeth et al. (2014) Parental verbal affection and verbal aggression in childhood differentially influence psychiatric symptoms and wellbeing in young adulthood. Child Abuse Negl 38:91-102
Teicher, Martin H; Anderson, Carl M; Ohashi, Kyoko et al. (2014) Childhood maltreatment: altered network centrality of cingulate, precuneus, temporal pole and insula. Biol Psychiatry 76:297-305
Teicher, Martin H; Samson, Jacqueline A (2013) Childhood maltreatment and psychopathology: A case for ecophenotypic variants as clinically and neurobiologically distinct subtypes. Am J Psychiatry 170:1114-33
Choi, Jeewook; Jeong, Bumseok; Polcari, Ann et al. (2012) Reduced fractional anisotropy in the visual limbic pathway of young adults witnessing domestic violence in childhood. Neuroimage 59:1071-9
Teicher, Martin H; Anderson, Carl M; Polcari, Ann (2012) Childhood maltreatment is associated with reduced volume in the hippocampal subfields CA3, dentate gyrus, and subiculum. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:E563-72
Teicher, Martin H; Vitaliano, Gordana D (2011) Witnessing violence toward siblings: an understudied but potent form of early adversity. PLoS One 6:e28852
Tomoda, Akemi; Sheu, Yi-Shin; Rabi, Keren et al. (2011) Exposure to parental verbal abuse is associated with increased gray matter volume in superior temporal gyrus. Neuroimage 54 Suppl 1:S280-6
Teicher, Martin H; Samson, Jacqueline A; Sheu, Yi-Shin et al. (2010) Hurtful words: association of exposure to peer verbal abuse with elevated psychiatric symptom scores and corpus callosum abnormalities. Am J Psychiatry 167:1464-71
Teicher, Martin H (2010) Commentary: Childhood abuse: new insights into its association with posttraumatic stress, suicidal ideation, and aggression. J Pediatr Psychol 35:578-80
Anderson, Carl M; Rabi, Keren; Lukas, Scott E et al. (2010) Cerebellar lingula size and experiential risk factors associated with high levels of alcohol and drug use in young adults. Cerebellum 9:198-209

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