DataSheet1_Childhood Emotional Abuse Moderates Associations Among Corticomotor White Matter Structure and Stress Neuromodulators in Women With and Without Depression.docx

Adverse caregiving during development can produce long-lasting changes to neural, endocrine, and behavioral responses to stress, and is strongly related to elevated risk of adult psychopathology. While prior experience of adversity is associated with altered sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, the underlying neural pathways are not completely understood. In a double-blind crossover study, we used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine whether variation in white matter structure predicts differences in HPA-SNS interactions as a function of early adversity. Participants included 74 women who exhibited a wide range of depression severity and/or childhood emotional abuse (EA). Participants attended two experimental sessions during which they were administered 20 mg cortisol (CORT) or placebo and after 90 min, viewed emotionally laden pictures while undergoing MRI scanning. Immediately after emotional picture-viewing, we collected salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) to index SNS activation. We tested whether EA moderated the relation between fractional anisotropy (FA), a measure of white matter fiber structure, and sAA. In the placebo condition, for participants with minimal history of EA, higher FA in corticomotor projections was negatively correlated with sAA, whereas in participants with severe EA, the correlation was trending in the opposite direction. Following CORT administration, FA and sAA were not related, suggesting that SNS tone during acute cortisol elevation may depend on neural pathways other than corticomotor projections. The results suggest that at baseline—though not during cortisol elevation—increased FA in these tracts is associated with lower levels of SNS activity in women with minimal EA, but not in women with severe EA. These findings provide evidence that corticomotor projections may be a key component of altered neural circuitry in adults with history of maltreatment, and may be related to alterations in stress neuromodulators in psychopathology.