THE EFFECT OF EARLY LIFE STRESS ON NEURAL ACTIVITY DURING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY RECALL
Introduction: Retrieval of past events guides our behaviour in the future and affects our well-being. Sometimes this system is hyperactive, resulting in an extreme retention of traumatic memories and possibly a higher risk of developing PTSD or other psychopathologies. There are treatments for PTSD that do reduce the symptoms, including drug administration of Hydrocortisone for example, but there is still a high remission rate. One risk-factor is the experience of trauma early in life (ELS). These events can influence neurodevelopment and memory processes. It is important to gain a better understanding of memory systems and the development after ELS to possibly discover better and more personalized ways to help people with PTSD and ELS. Research Question: The main objective is to verify if the Autobiographical Memory Task paradigm is effective in both participants with and without ELS. We expect that the mPFC, the hippocampal complex, the Precuneus, the cerebellum, the TPJ, the insula, amygdala and ACC will be activated during the Autobiographical Memory Recall Task (AMRT) in a group including both ELS and non-ELS subjects. Methods: A placebo-controlled double-blind cross-over design will be used where both ELS and non-ELS participants perform two sessions of an AMRT in the MRI scanner. They will receive 20 mg of Hydrocortisone in one session and a placebo in the other. Results: We found signification activation in some of the hypothesized areas and even some extra regions that could certainly be relevant to the AMRT. The most prominent regions that were predicted and show up in several contrasts during the analysis are the PCC/Midcingulate cortex, mPFC and the Precuneus. Discussion: Significant activation was found in the hypothesized areas which suggests that the AMR task was verified. The group effect was rather small, because the study had not finished data acquisition yet, so there was a small sample size and we were unable to take the ELS status or drug effect into account. Nonetheless we found a trend in activation that is promising for the main study.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen