Publications

In Press
Lurie, L., Hangan, E., Rosen, M., Crosnoe, R., & McLaughlin, K. (In Press). Reduced growth mindset as a mechanism linking childhood trauma with academic performance and internalizing psychopathology. Child Abuse & Neglect , 1-12. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: Despite the high prevalence of childhood adversity and well-documented associa- tions with poor academic achievement and psychopathology, effective, scalable interventions remain largely unavailable. Existing interventions targeting growth mindset—the belief that personal characteristics are malleable—have been shown to improve academic achievement and symptoms of psychopathology in youth.

Objective: The present study examines growth mindset as a potential modifiable mechanism un- derlying the associations of two dimensions of childhood adversity—threat and deprivation—- with academic achievement and internalizing psychopathology.
Participants and setting: Participants were 408 youth aged 10–18 years drawn from one timepoint of two longitudinal studies of community-based samples recruited to have diverse experiences of childhood adversity.

Method: Experiences of threat and deprivation were assessed using a multi-informant, multi- method approach. Youth reported on growth mindset of intelligence and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Parents provided information about youths’ academic performance.
Results: Both threat and deprivation were independently associated with lower growth mindset, but when accounting for co-occurring adversities, only the association between threat and lower growth mindset remained significant. Lower growth mindset was associated with worse academic performance and greater symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Finally, there was a signifi- cant indirect effect of experiences of threat on both lower academic performance and greater symptoms of anxiety through lower growth mindset.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that growth mindset could be a promising target for efforts aimed at mitigating the impact of childhood adversity on academic achievement and psychopathology given the efficacy of existing brief, scalable growth mindset interventions.

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Reid-Russell, A., Cvencek, D., Meltzoff, A. N., & McLaughlin, K. A. (In Press). Lower implicit self-esteem as a pathway linking childhood abuse to depression and suicidal ideation. Development and Psychopathology. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Identifying the potential pathways linking childhood abuse to depression and suicidal ideation is critical for developing effective interventions. This study investigated implicit self-esteem—unconscious valenced self-evaluation—as a potential pathway linking childhood abuse with depression and suicidal ideation. A sample of youth aged 8–16 years (N = 240) completed a self-esteem Implicit Association Test (IAT) and assessments of abuse exposure, and psychopathology symptoms, including depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and externalizing symptoms. Psychopathology symptoms were re-assessed 1–3 years later. Childhood abuse was positively associated with baseline and follow-up depression symptoms and suicidal ideation severity, and negatively associated with implicit self-esteem. Lower implicit self-esteem was associated with both depression and suicidal ideation assessed concurrently and predicted significant increases in depression and suicidal ideation over the longitudinal follow-up period. Lower implicit self-esteem was also associated with baseline anxiety, externalizing symptoms, and a general psychopathology factor (i.e. p-factor). We found an indirect effect of childhood abuse on baseline and follow-up depression symptoms and baseline suicidal ideation through implicit self-esteem. These findings point to implicit self-esteem as a potential mechanism linking childhood abuse to depression and suicidal ideation.
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Luby, J., Rogers, C., & McLaughlin, K. A. (In Press). Environmental conditions to promote healthy childhood brain/behavioral development: Informing early preventive interventions for delivery in routine care. Biological Psychiatry. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Environmental experiences early in life have strong and enduring consequences for cognitive, emotional, and neurobiological development and related physical and mental health trajectories. The powerful influence of early caregiver nurturance and stimulation on promoting positive neurodevelopmental outcomes has been demonstrated across species. These findings elucidate the environmental conditions known to facilitate healthy neurodevelopment and underscore the potential for modifiable psychosocial factors in the environment to be harnessed to inform early preventive interventions to promote health and adaptive development. A framework for early preventive interventions to enhance nurturing and responsive caregiving for implementation during early sensitive periods of brain develop- ment delivered within existing health or educational infrastructures is proposed. Emotional development during sensitive periods is an important, under-recognized, and abundantly modifiable predictor of mental and physical health outcomes that warrants investment of resources and integration of interventions into public health infra- structure for children worldwide. Future studies are needed to further clarify whether and when sensitive periods are present for key developmental domains to inform the optimal timing and targets of these interventions. Numerous available empirically supported early interventions may be modified and applied in briefer and more feasible mo- dalities of delivery to broader populations of developing children. As well established in growth and development across species, essential environmental inputs that are particularly important at specified developmental periods facilitate optimal growth trajectories. Such principles hold great potential in application to early child neuro- development to facilitate a thriving and resilient human population.

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McLaughlin, K. A., Rosen, M. L., Kasparek, S. W., & Rodman, A. M. (In Press). Stress-related psychopathology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Behaviour Research and Therapy. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced widespread societal changes that have required ongoing adaptation. Unsurprisingly, stress-related psychopathology has increased during the pandemic, in both children and adults. We review these patterns through the lens of several leading conceptual models of the link between stress and psychopathology. Some of these models focus on characteristics of environmental stressors—including cumulative risk, specific stressor types, and stress sensitization approaches. Understanding the specific aspects of environmental stressors that are most likely to lead to psychopathology can shed light on who may be in most need of clinical intervention. Other models center on factors that can buffer against the onset of psychopathology following stress and the mechanisms through which stressors contribute to emergent psychopathology. These models highlight specific psychosocial processes that may be most usefully targeted by interventions to reduce stress-related psychopathology. We review evidence for each of these stress models in the context of other widescale community-level disruptions, like natural disasters and terrorist attacks, alongside emerging evidence for these stress pathways from the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss clinical implications for developing interventions to reduce stress-related psychopathology during the pandemic, with a focus on brief, digital interventions that may be more accessible than traditional clinical services.
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Schäfer, J. L., Mclaughlin, K. A., Manfro, G. G., Pedro, P., Rohde, L. A., Miguel, E. C., Simioni, A., et al. (In Press). Threat and deprivation are associated with distinct aspects of cognition, emotional processing and psychopathology in children and adolescents. Developmental Science. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Exposure to childhood adversity has been consistently associated with poor devel- opmental outcomes, but it is unclear whether these associations vary across dif- ferent forms of adversity. We examined cross-sectional and longitudinal associa- tions between threat and deprivation with cognition, emotional processing, and psy- chopathology in a middle-income country. The sample consisted of 2511 children and adolescents (6–17 years old) from the Brazilian High-Risk Cohort for Mental Condi- tions. Parent reports on childhood adversity were used to construct adversity latent constructs. Psychopathology was measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) to generate a measure of general psychopathology (the “p” factor). Executive function (EF) and attention orienting toward angry faces were assessed using cognitive tasks. All measures were acquired at two time-points 3 years apart and associations were tested using general linear models. Higher levels of psychopathology were predicted by higher levels of threat cross-sectionally and longitudinally, and by deprivation longi- tudinally. For EF, worse performance was associated only with deprivation at baseline and follow-up. Finally, threat was associated with attention orienting towards angry faces cross-sectionally, but neither form of adversity was associated with changes over time in attention bias. Our results suggest that threat and deprivation have dif- ferential associations with cognitive development and psychopathology. Exposure to adversity during childhood is a complex phenomenon with meaningful influences on child development. Because adversity can take many forms, dimensional models might help to disentangle the specific developmental correlates of different types of early experience. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=uEU0L8exyTM.

 

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Sun, D., & et. al.,. (In Press). Remodeling of the Cortical Structural Connectome in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Results from the ENIGMA-PGC PTSD Consortium. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is accompanied by disrupted cortical neuroanatomy. We investigated alteration in covariance of structural networks associated with PTSD in regions that demonstrate the case-control differences in cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA).

Methods: Neuroimaging and clinical data were aggregated from 29 research sites in >1,300 PTSD cases and >2,000 trauma-exposed controls (age 6.2-85.2 years) by the ENIGMA-PGC PTSD working group. Cortical regions in the network were rank-ordered by effect size of PTSD- related cortical differences in CT and SA. The top-n (n = 2 to 148) regions with the largest effect size for PTSD > non-PTSD formed hypertrophic networks, the largest effect size for PTSD < non-PTSD formed atrophic networks, and the smallest effect size of between-group differences formed stable networks. The mean structural covariance (SC) of a given n-region network was the average of all positive pairwise correlations and was compared to the mean SC of 5,000 randomly generated n-region networks.

Results: Patients with PTSD, relative to non-PTSD controls, exhibited lower mean SC in CT- based and SA-based atrophic networks. Comorbid depression, sex and age modulated covariance differences of PTSD-related structural networks.

Conclusions: Covariance of structural networks based on CT and cortical SA are affected by PTSD and further modulated by comorbid depression, sex, and age. The structural covariance networks that are perturbed in PTSD comport with converging evidence from resting state functional connectivity networks and networks impacted by inflammatory processes, and stress hormones in PTSD.

 

Keywords: PTSD, Cortical Thickness, Surface Area, Structural Covariance, Brain Network, Depression.

 

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Lengua, L. J., Thompson, S. F., Gyuri Kim, S., Rosen, M. L., Rodman, A., Kasparek, S., Mayes, M., et al. (In Press). Maternal mental health mediates the effects of pandemic-related stressors on adolescent psychopathology during COVID-19. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background

This study examined whether COVID-19-related maternal mental health changes contributed to changes in adolescent psychopathology.

Methods

A community sample of 226 adolescents (12 years old before COVID-19) and their mothers were asked to complete COVID-19 surveys early in the pandemic (April–May 2020, adolescents 14 years) and approximately 6 months later (November 2020–January 2021). Surveys assessed pandemic-related stressors (health, financial, social, school, environment) and mental health.

Results

Lower pre-pandemic family income-to-needs ratio was associated with higher pre-pandemic maternal mental health symptoms (anxiety, depression) and adolescent internalizing and externalizing problems, and with experiencing more pandemic-related stressors. Pandemic-related stressors predicted increases in maternal mental health symptoms, but not adolescent symptoms when other variables were covaried. Higher maternal mental health symptoms predicted concurrent increases in adolescent internalizing and externalizing. Maternal mental health mediated the effects of pre-pandemic income and pandemic-related stressors on adolescent internalizing and externalizing problems.

Conclusions

Results indicate that adolescent mental health is closely tied to maternal mental health during community-level stressors such as COVID-19, and that pre-existing family economic context and adolescent symptoms increase risk for elevations in symptoms of psychopathology.

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Ellis, B. J., Sheridan, M. A., Belsky, J., & McLaughlin, K. A. (In Press). Why and how does early adversity influence development? Toward an integrated model of dimensions of environmental experience. Development and Psychopathology , 1-25. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Two extant frameworks – the harshness-unpredictability model and the threat-deprivation model – attempt to explain which dimensions of adversity have distinct influences on development. These models address, respectively, why, based on a history of natural selection, develop- ment operates the way it does across a range of environmental contexts, and how the neural mechanisms that underlie plasticity and learning in response to environmental experiences influence brain development. Building on these frameworks, we advance an integrated model of dimensions of environmental experience, focusing on threat-based forms of harshness, deprivation-based forms of harshness, and environ- mental unpredictability. This integrated model makes clear that the why and the how of development are inextricable and, together, essential to understanding which dimensions of the environment matter. Core integrative concepts include the directedness of learning, multiple levels of developmental adaptation to the environment, and tradeoffs between adaptive and maladaptive developmental responses to adversity. The integrated model proposes that proximal and distal cues to threat-based and deprivation-based forms of harshness, as well as unpredictability in those cues, calibrate development to both immediate rearing environments and broader ecological contexts, current and future. We high- light actionable directions for research needed to investigate the integrated model and advance understanding of dimensions of environmental experience.

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Romeo, R. R., Flournoy, J. C., McLaughlin, K. A., & Lengua, L. J. (In Press). Language development as a mechanism linking socioeconomic status to executive functioning development in preschool. Developmental Science. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is related to disparities in the development of both language and executive functioning (EF) skills. Emerging evidence suggests that language development may precede and provide necessary scaffolding for EF development in early childhood. The present preregistered study investigates how these skills co-develop longitudinally in early childhood and whether language development explains the relationship between SES and EF development. A socioeconomically diverse sample of 305 children completed repeated assessments of language (sentence comprehension) and EF (cognitive flexibility, behavioral inhibition, and cognitive inhibition) at four waves spaced 9 months apart from ages 3 to 5 years. Bivariate latent curve models with structured residuals were estimated to disaggregate between-person and within-person components of stability and change. Results revealed bidirectional relationships between language and EF across all waves. However, at 3 years, language comprehension more strongly predicted EF than the reverse; yet by 5 years, the bidirectional effects across domains did not significantly differ. Children from higher-SES backgrounds exhibited higher initial language and EF skills than children from lower-SES families, though SES was not associated with either rate of growth. Finally, early language-mediated the association between SES and early EF skills, and this model outperformed a reverse direction mediation. Together, results suggest that EF development is driven by early language development, and that SES disparities in EF are explained, at least in part, by early differences in language comprehension. These findings have implications for early interventions to support children's language skills as a potential pathway to improving early EF development.
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Weissman, D. G., Rosen, M. L., Colich, N. L., Sambook, K. A., Lengua, L. J., Sheridan, M. A., & McLaughlin, K. A. (In Press). Exposure to Violence as an Environmental Pathway Linking Low Socioeconomic Status with Altered Neural Processing of Threat and Adolescent Psychopathology. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience , 1-14. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Low childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with increased risk for psychopathology, because in part of heightened exposure to environmental adversity. Adverse experiences can be characterized along dimensions, including threat and deprivation, that contribute to psychopathology via distinct mechanisms. The current study investigated a neural mechanism through which threat and deprivation may contribute to socioeconomic disparities in psychopathology. Participants were 177 youths (83 girls) aged 10-13 years recruited from a cohort followed since the age of 3 years. SES was assessed using the income-to-needs ratio at the age of 3 years. At the age of 10-13 years, retrospective and current exposure to adverse experiences and symptoms of psychopathology were assessed. At this same time point, participants also completed a face processing task (passive viewing of fearful and neutral faces) during an fMRI scan. Lower childhood SES was associated with greater exposure to threat and deprivation experiences. Both threat and deprivation were associated with higher depression symptoms, whereas threat experiences were uniquely linked to posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Greater exposure to threat, but not deprivation, was associated with higher activation in dorsomedial pFC to fearful compared with neutral faces. The dorsomedial pFC is a hub of the default mode network thought to be involved in internally directed attention and cognition. Experiences of threat, but not deprivation, are associated with greater engagement of this region in response to threat cues. Threat-related adversity contributes to socioeconomic disparities in adolescent psychopathology through distinct mechanisms from deprivation.
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Kim, S. G., Weissman, D. G., Sheridan, M. A., & McLaughlin, K. A. (In Press). Child abuse and automatic emotion regulation in children and adolescents. Development and Psychopathology , 1-11. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Child abuse is associated with elevated risk for psychopathology. The current study examined the role of automatic emotion regulation as a potential mechanism linking child abuse with internalizing psychopathology. A sample of 237 youth aged 8–16 years and their caregivers participated. Child abuse severity was assessed by self-report questionnaires, and automatic emotion regulation was assessed using an emotional Stroop task designed to measure adaptation to emotional conflict. A similar task without emotional stimuli was also administered to evaluate whether abuse was uniquely associated with emotion regulation, but not cognitive control applied in a nonemotional context. Internalizing psychopathology was assessed concurrently and at a 2-year longitudinal follow-up. Child abuse severity was associated with lower emotional conflict adaptation but was unrelated to cognitive control. Specifically, the severity of emotional and physical abuse, but not sexual abuse, were associated with lower emotional conflict adaptation. Emotional conflict adaptation was not associated with internalizing psychopathology prospectively. These findings suggest that childhood emotional and physical abuse, in particular, may influence automatic forms of emotion regulation. Future work exploring the socioemotional consequences of altered automatic emotion regulation among youth exposed to child abuse is clearly needed.
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2022
Wade, M., Parsons, J., Humphreys, K., McLaughlin, K., Sheridan, M., Zeanah, C., Nelson, C., et al. (2022). The Bucharest Early Intervention Project: Adolescent mental health and adaptation following early deprivation. Child Development Perspectives , 154 - 164. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 

Over the last 20 years, we have learned much about the extent to which early-life deprivation affects the mental health of children and adolescents. This body of evidence comes predominantly from studies of children raised in institutional care. The Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) is the only randomized controlled trial designed to evaluate whether the transition to family-based foster care early in development can ameliorate the long-term impact of institutional deprivation on psychopathology during vulnerable developmental windows such as adolescence. In this review, we detail the extent to which early deprivation affects mental health during this period, the capacity of family-based care to facilitate recovery from early deprivation, and the mechanisms underpinning these effects spanning social–emotional, cognitive, stress, and neurobiological domains. We end by discussing the implications and directions for the BEIP and other studies of youth raised in institutions.

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McLaughlin, K., Rosen, M., Kasparek, S., & Rodman, A. (2022). Stress-related psychopathology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Behaviour Research and Therapy , 154, 1-11. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced widespread societal changes that have required ongoing adaptation. Unsurprisingly, stress-related psychopathology has increased during the pandemic, in both children and adults. We review these patterns through the lens of several leading conceptual models of the link between stress and psychopathology. Some of these models focus on characteristics of environmental stressors—including cumulative risk, specific stressor types, and stress sensitization approaches. Understanding the specific aspects of environmental stressors that are most likely to lead to psychopathology can shed light on who may be in most need of clinical intervention. Other models center on factors that can buffer against the onset of psychopathology following stress and the mechanisms through which stressors contribute to emergent psychopathology. These models highlight specific psychosocial processes that may be most usefully targeted by interventions to reduce stress-related psychopathology. We review evidence for each of these stress models in the context of other widescale community-level disruptions, like natural disasters and terrorist attacks, alongside emerging evidence for these stress pathways from the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss clinical implications for developing interventions to reduce stress-related psychopathology during the pandemic, with a focus on brief, digital interventions that may be more accessible than traditional clinical services.
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Maihofer, A. X., & et. al,. (2022). Enhancing discovery of genetic variants for posttraumatic stress disorder through integration of quantitative phenotypes and trauma exposure information. Biological Psychiatry , 91 (7), 626 - 636. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is heritable and a potential consequence of exposure to traumatic stress. Evidence suggests that a quantitative approach to PTSD phenotype measurement and incorporation of lifetime trauma exposure (LTE) information could enhance the discovery power of PTSD genome-wide association studies (GWASs).

Methods

A GWAS on PTSD symptoms was performed in 51 cohorts followed by a fixed-effects meta-analysis (N = 182,199 European ancestry participants). A GWAS of LTE burden was performed in the UK Biobank cohort (N = 132,988). Genetic correlations were evaluated with linkage disequilibrium score regression. Multivariate analysis was performed using Multi-Trait Analysis of GWAS. Functional mapping and annotation of leading loci was performed with FUMA. Replication was evaluated using the Million Veteran Program GWAS of PTSD total symptoms.

Results

GWASs of PTSD symptoms and LTE burden identified 5 and 6 independent genome-wide significant loci, respectively. There was a 72% genetic correlation between PTSD and LTE. PTSD and LTE showed largely similar patterns of genetic correlation with other traits, albeit with some distinctions. Adjusting PTSD for LTE reduced PTSD heritability by 31%. Multivariate analysis of PTSD and LTE increased the effective sample size of the PTSD GWAS by 20% and identified 4 additional loci. Four of these 9 PTSD loci were independently replicated in the Million Veteran Program.

Conclusions

Through using a quantitative trait measure of PTSD, we identified novel risk loci not previously identified using prior case-control analyses. PTSD and LTE have a high genetic overlap that can be leveraged to increase discovery power through multivariate methods.

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Tang, A., McLaughlin, K. A., Sheridan, M., Nelson, C. A., & Zeanah, C. H. (2022). Autonomic reactivity to social rejection, peer difficulties, and the buffering effects of adolescent friendships following early psychosocial deprivation . Emotion , 22 (3), 318 - 330. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Autonomic nervous system reactivity has been posited to be a mechanism contributing to social and emotional problems among children exposed to early adversity. Leveraging data from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, a longitudinal randomized controlled trial of foster care versus institutional care of abandoned children in Romania, we assessed whether altered sympathetic reactivity to peer rejection feedback in early adolescence mediated the relation between early institutional rearing and peer problems in later adolescence. We also assessed whether adolescent friendship quality or randomized placement in foster care early in life moderated these associations. Participants include 68 institutionalized children randomized to care as usual, 68 institutionalized children randomized to foster care, and 135 never-institutionalized children. At age 12, participants reported friendship quality with respect to a best friend and completed a social rejection task while electrocardiogram and impedance cardiography were recorded. Sympathetic nervous system reactivity to rejection feedback was assessed using preejection period (PEP). At ages 12 and 16, peer problems were reported by parents. Mediation analysis revealed that less PEP reactivity to social rejection at age 12 partially mediated the association between early institutionalization and greater peer problems at age 16. Further moderated mediation analysis revealed that this indirect effect was evidenced among previously institutionalized youths with low, but not high, quality friendships. We did not observe foster care intervention effects. These findings suggest that altered sympathetic reactivity to social rejection might be a mechanism linking early institutionalization to social difficulties into adolescence, however, positive adolescent friendships may buffer these effects. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)
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Gee, D. G., DeYoung, K. A., Mclaughlin, K. A., Tillman, R. M., Barch, D. M., Forbes, E. E., Krueger, R. F., et al. (2022). Training the Next Generation of Clinical Psychological Scientists: A Data-Driven Call to Action. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology , 18, 43-70. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The central goal of clinical psychology is to reduce the suffering caused by mental health conditions. Anxiety, mood, psychosis, substance use, personality, and other mental disorders impose an immense burden on global public health and the economy. Tackling this burden will require the development and dissemination of intervention strategies that are more effective, sustainable, and equitable. Clinical psychology is uniquely poised to serve as a transdisciplinary hub for this work. But rising to this challengerequires an honest reckoning with the strengths and weaknesses of current training practices. Building on new data, we identify the most important challenges to training the next generation of clinical scientists. We provide specific recommendations for the full spectrum of stakeholders—from funders, accreditors, and universities to program directors, faculty, and students—with an emphasis on sustainable solutions that promote scientific rigor and discovery and enhance the mental health of clinical scientists and the public alike.
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Colich, N. L., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2022). Accelerated pubertal development as a mechanism linking trauma exposure with depression and anxiety in adolescenceAuthor links open overlay panel. Current Opinion in Psychology , 46, 1-6. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Exposure to early-life adversity (ELA) is associated with elevated risk for depression and anxiety disorders in adolescence. Identifying mechanisms through which ELA contributes to the emergence of depression and anxiety is necessary to design preventive interventions. One potential mechanism linking exposure to ELA with psychopathology is accelerated pubertal development. Exposure to trauma—specifically interpersonal violence—is associated with earlier pubertal timing, which in turn predicts adolescent-onset depression and anxiety disorders. We review the recent literature on adversity and accelerated pubertal development, exploring specific associations between trauma and accelerated pubertal development as a mechanism linking adversity with depression and anxiety disorders in adolescence. Finally, we suggest future directions for research exploring mechanisms linking ELA with accelerated pubertal development as well as pubertal timing and psychopathology in adolescence.
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Sumner, J. A., Gambazza, S., Gao, X., Baccarelli, A. A., Uddin, M., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2022). Epigenetics of early-life adversity in youth: cross-sectional and longitudinal associations. Clinical Epigenetics , 14 (48), 1-12. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: Altered DNA methylation (DNAm) may be one pathway through which early-life adversity (ELA) contributes to adverse mental and physical health outcomes. This study investigated whether the presence versus absence of ELA experiences reflecting the dimensions of threat and deprivation were associated with epigenome- wide DNAm cross-sectionally and longitudinally in a community-based sample of children and adolescents.

Methods: In 113 youths aged 8–16 years with wide variability in ELA, we examined associations of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional; indicating threat-related experiences) and neglect (emotional, physical; indicating deprivation- related experiences) with DNAm assessed with the Illumina EPIC BeadChip array, with DNA derived from saliva. In cross-sectional epigenome-wide analyses, we investigated associations of lifetime abuse and neglect with DNAm at baseline. In longitudinal epigenome-wide analyses, we examined whether experiencing abuse and neglect over an approximately 2-year follow-up were each associated with change in DNAm from baseline to follow-up.

Results: In cross-sectional analyses adjusting for lifetime experience of neglect, lifetime experience of abuse was associated with DNAm for four cytosine-phosphodiester-guanine (CpG) sites (cg20241299: coefficient = 0.023,
SE = 0.004; cg08671764: coefficient = 0.018, SE = 0.003; cg27152686: coefficient = − 0.069, SE = 0.012; cg24241897: coefficient = − 0.003, SE = 0.001; FDR < .05). In longitudinal analyses, experiencing neglect over follow-up was associ- ated with an increase in DNAm for one CpG site, adjusting for abuse over follow-up (cg03135983: coefficient = 0.036, SE = 0.006; FDR < .05).

Conclusions: In this study, we identified examples of epigenetic patterns associated with ELA experiences of threat and deprivation that were already observable in youth. We provide novel evidence for change in DNAm over time in relation to ongoing adversity and that experiences reflecting distinct ELA dimensions may be characterized by unique epigenetic patterns.

Keywords: Threat, Deprivation, Abuse, Neglect, DNA methylation

 

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DeCross, S. N., Sambrook, K. A., Sheridan, M. A., Tottenham, N., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2022). Dynamic alterations in neural networks supporting aversive learning in children exposed to trauma: neural mechanisms underlying psychopathology. Biological Psychiatry , 91 (7), 667-675. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Altered aversive learning represents a potential mechanism through which childhood trauma (CT) might influence risk for psychopathology. This study examines the temporal dynamics of neural activation and patterns of functional connectivity during aversive learning in children with and without exposure to CT involving interpersonal violence and evaluates whether these neural patterns mediate the association of CT with psychopathology in a longitudinal design.
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McLaughlin, K. A., & Gabard-Durnam, L. J. (2022). Experience-Driven Plasticity and the Emergence of Psychopathology: A Mechanistic Framework Integrating Development and the Environment into the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Model. Journal of Abnormal Psychology , 575 - 587. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Despite the clear importance of a developmental perspective for understanding the emergence of psychopathology across the life-course, such a perspective has yet to be integrated into the RDoC model. In this paper, we articulate a framework that incorporates developmentally-specific learning mechanisms that reflect experience-driven plasticity as additional units of analysis in the existing RDoC matrix. These include both experience-expectant learning mechanisms that occur during sensitive periods of development and experience-dependent learning mechanisms that may exhibit substantial variation across development. Incorporating these learning mechanisms allows for clear integration not only of development but also environmental experience into the RDoC model. We demonstrate how individual differences in environmental experiences—such as early-life adversity—can be leveraged to identify experience-driven plasticity patterns across development and apply this framework to consider how environmental experience shapes key biobehavioral processes that comprise the RDoC model. This framework provides a structure for understanding how affective, cognitive, social, and neurobiological processes are shaped by experience across development and ultimately contribute to the emergence of psychopathology. We demonstrate how incorporating an experience-driven plasticity framework is critical for understanding the development of many processes subsumed within the RDoC model, which will contribute to greater understanding of developmental variation in the etiology of psychopathology and can be leveraged to identify potential windows of heightened developmental plasticity when clinical interventions might be maximally efficacious.
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