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Emotional abuse mediated by negative automatic thoughts impacts functional connectivity during adolescence

Neurobiol Stress. 2024 Mar 19;30:100623. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2024.100623. eCollection 2024 May.


BACKGROUND: Emotional abuse during childhood and adolescence is thought to be associated with the brain; however, the neural mechanism underlying the cognitive process remains unknown. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the mediating effect of negative automatic thoughts on the relationship between emotional abuse and resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) during adolescence.

METHOD: Our community sample included 54 adolescents aged 13-17 years in the statistical analysis. Resting-state functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed, while emotional abuse and negative automatic thoughts were assessed using self-reported scales. A mediation analysis was used to assess the contributions of early traumatic events and negative automatic thoughts to resting functional connectivity.

RESULT: Higher negative automatic thoughts were associated with lower connectivity in the context of greater emotional abuse (i.e., suppression effect). Thus, the relationships between emotional abuse and connectivity in the precuneus (pCun)-medial prefrontal cortex, parahippocampal cortex-extrastriate cortex, and temporal cortex-temporal pole were decreased by negative automatic thoughts. In contrast, functional connections in the pCun-pCun, pCun-precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex, and nucleus accumbens-somatomotor areas were strongly mediated when emotionally abused adolescents reported a high tendency for negative automatic thoughts.

CONCLUSION: Negative automatic thoughts strengthened the relationship between emotional abuse and rsFC. These findings highlight the underlying cognitive processing of the traumatic event-neural system, supporting the use of cognitive therapy for post-traumatic symptoms.

PMID:38572483 | PMC:PMC10987907 | DOI:10.1016/j.ynstr.2024.100623

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