Preschool Externalizing Behavior Predicts Gender-Specific Variation in Adolescent Neural Structure.

PloS one

PubMedID: 25658357

Caldwell JZ, Armstrong JM, Hanson JL, Sutterer MJ, Stodola DE, Koenigs M, Kalin NH, Essex MJ, Davidson RJ. Preschool Externalizing Behavior Predicts Gender-Specific Variation in Adolescent Neural Structure. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(2):e0117453.
Dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus is believed to underlie the development of much psychopathology. However, to date only limited longitudinal data relate early behavior with neural structure later in life. Our objective was to examine the relationship of early life externalizing behavior with adolescent brain structure. We report here the first longitudinal study linking externalizing behavior during preschool to brain structure during adolescence. We examined the relationship of preschool externalizing behavior with amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex volumes at age 15 years in a community sample of 76 adolescents followed longitudinally since their mothers' pregnancy. A significant gender by externalizing behavior interaction revealed that males-but not females-with greater early childhood externalizing behavior had smaller amygdala volumes at adolescence (t = 2.33, p = .023). No significant results were found for the hippocampus or the prefrontal cortex. Greater early externalizing behavior also related to smaller volume of a cluster including the angular gyrus and tempoparietal junction across genders. Results were not attributable to the impact of preschool anxiety, preschool maternal stress, school-age internalizing or externalizing behaviors, or adolescent substance use. These findings demonstrate a novel, gender-specific relationship between early-childhood externalizing behavior and adolescent amygdala volume, as well as a cross-gender result for the angular gyrus and tempoparietal junction.