Early developmental emergence of human amygdala-prefrontal connectivity after maternal deprivation

Dylan G. Gee, Laurel J. Gabard-Durnam, Jessica Flannery, Bonnie Goff, Kathryn L. Humphreys, Eva H. Telzer, Todd A. Hare, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Nim Tottenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Under typical conditions, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connections with the amygdala are immature during childhood and become adult-like during adolescence. Rodent models show that maternal deprivation accelerates this development, prompting examination of human amygdala-mPFC phenotypes following maternal deprivation. Previously institutionalized youths, who experienced early maternal deprivation, exhibited atypical amygdala- mPFC connectivity. Specifically, unlike the immature connectivity (positive amygdala-mPFC coupling) of comparison children, children with a history of early adversity evidenced mature connectivity (negative amygdala-mPFC coupling) and thus, resembled the adolescent phenotype. This connectivity pattern was mediated by the hormone cortisol, suggesting that stress-induced modifications of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis shape amygdala-mPFC circuitry. Despite being age-atypical, negative amygdala-mPFC coupling conferred some degree of reduced anxiety, although anxiety was still significantly higher in the previously institutionalized group. These findings suggest that accelerated amygdala-mPFC development is an ontogenetic adaptation in response to early adversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15638-15643
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 24 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion regulation
  • FMRI
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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