Impact of childhood maltreatment and resilience on behavioral and neural patterns of inhibitory control during emotional distraction

Lauren A. Demers, Ruskin H. Hunt, Dante Cicchetti, Julia E. Cohen-Gilbert, Fred A. Rogosch, Sheree L. Toth, Kathleen M. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Exposure to childhood maltreatment (CM) may disrupt typical development of neural systems underlying impulse control and emotion regulation. Yet resilient outcomes are observed in some individuals exposed to CM. Individual differences in adult functioning may result from variation in inhibitory control in the context of emotional distractions, underpinned by cognitive–affective brain circuits. Thirty-eight healthy adults with a history of substantiated CM and 34 nonmaltreated adults from the same longitudinal sample performed a Go/No-Go task in which task-relevant stimuli (letters) were presented at the center of task-irrelevant, negative, or neutral images, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. The comparison group, but not the maltreated group, made increased inhibitory control errors in the context of negative, but not neutral, distractor images. In addition, the comparison group had greater right inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral frontal pole activation during inhibitory control blocks with negative compared to neutral background images relative to the CM group. Across the full sample, greater adaptive functioning in everyday contexts was associated with superior inhibitory control and greater right frontal pole activation. Results suggest that resilience following early adversity is associated with enhanced attention and behavioral regulation in the context of task-irrelevant negative emotional stimuli in a laboratory setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1260-1271
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4
Early online dateApr 8 2021
StatePublished - Apr 8 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • childhood maltreatment
  • emotion
  • impulsivity
  • inhibitory control
  • prefrontal cortex


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