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Dec 2011

Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Neuroimaging Studies of the Effects of Child Maltreatment

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Psychology Department, University of Oregon (Drs Fisher and Pfeifer) and Oregon Social Learning Center (Dr Fisher), Eugene.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165(12):1133-1134. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.1046

The extensive scientific literature on child maltreatment (CM) has provided strong evidence of the globally negative effects of abuse, neglect, and emotional maltreatment on healthy development and of the remarkable resilience of individuals who manage to prosper even in the face of these adverse experiences.1,2 Yet, after many decades of CM research, the underlying mechanisms by which risk and resilience are conferred are just beginning to be understood. In recent years, there has been an acceleration of progress in this area, owing largely to advances in developmental cognitive neuroscience methodologies that are allowing researchers an unprecedented opportunity to understand the manner by which these experiences get “under the skin”3 to affect the development of neurobiological systems.4-6 These findings (from animal and human studies) document structural and functional changes in the developing brain associated with CM7,8 and yield strong support for the role of CM in subsequent psychopathology in childhood and across the life span.9 Edmiston et al10 followed this recent trend of neuroscientific investigations of CM but broke new ground in 4 important ways.

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