(HealthDay News) – For females, early-life stress (ELS) correlates with increased cortisol levels; this predicts reduced functional connectivity in the amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal cortical (vmPFC) circuit in adolescence, which is inversely linked to anxiety, according to a study published online Nov. 11 in Nature Neuroscience.
Cory A. Burghy, PhD, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and colleagues used resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) to examine the roles of ELS and childhood basal cortisol in the development of resting-state functional connectivity in the amygdala-vmPFC circuit of adolescents.
The researchers found that, in females, elevated ELS was predictive of elevated cortisol levels, which predicted decreased amygdala-vmPFC fcMRI 14 years later. Amygdala-vmPFC fcMRI was inversely associated with concurrent symptoms of anxiety, and correlated positively with depressive symptoms, for females.
“In conclusion, our findings imply that, in females, ELS and early cortisol function may leave an imprint on the brain that can be detected in adolescent resting-state connectivity within a circuit important for emotion regulation, and variation in the function of this circuit plays an important role in adolescent anxiety and depressive symptoms,” the authors write.