Larger amygdala but no change in hippocampal volume in 10-year-old children exposed to maternal depressive symptomatology since birth

Sonia J. Lupien, Sophie Parent, Alan C. Evans, Richard E. Tremblay, Philip David Zelazo, Vincent Corbo, Jens C. Pruessner, Jean R. Séguin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


Maternal separation and poor maternal care in animals have been shown to have important effects on the developing hippocampus and amygdala. In humans, children exposed to abuse/maltreatment or orphanage rearing do not present changes in hippocampal volumes. However, children reared in orphanages present enlarged amygdala volumes, suggesting that the amygdala may be particularly sensitive to severely disturbed (i.e., discontinous, neglectful) care in infancy. Maternal depressive symptomatology has been associated with reductions in overall sensitivity to the infant, and with an increased rate of withdrawn, disengaged behaviors. To determine if poor maternal care associated with maternal depressive symptomatology has a similar pattern of association to the volumes of the hippocampus and amygdala in children, as is the case for severely disturbed infant care (orphanage rearing), we measured hippocampal and amygdala volumes as well as stress hormone (glucocorticoid) levels in children exposed (n = 17) or not (n = 21) to maternal depressive symptomatology since birth. Results revealed no group difference in hippocampal volumes, but larger left and right amygdala volumes and increased levels of glucocorticoids in the children of mothers presenting depressive symptomatology since birth. Moreover, a significant positive correlation was observed between mothers' mean depressive scores and amygdala volumes in their children. The results of this study suggest that amygdala volume in human children may represent an early marker of biological sensitivity to quality of maternal care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14324-14329
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 23 2011

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Brain
  • Child
  • Development
  • Parental care

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Larger amygdala but no change in hippocampal volume in 10-year-old children exposed to maternal depressive symptomatology since birth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this