Childhood Maltreatment and Pediatric PTSD: Abnormalities in Threat Neural Circuitry

  • Ryan Herringa
Part of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network book series (CMSN)


This chapter will detail my laboratory’s work highlighting the effects of childhood maltreatment and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the brain’s processing of threat. This review will focus on functional brain abnormalities associated with childhood maltreatment and PTSD and give consideration to which of these changes may be adaptive or maladaptive in the context of a stressful childhood environment. This chapter will begin with a brief overview of the neural circuitry involved in threat processing and regulation, followed by a summary of functional brain MRI studies my lab has conducted across adult and youth samples. In this work, I propose a model in which childhood maltreatment is associated with heightened reactivity in brain regions responsible for the detection of threat, such as the amygdala, which may aid a child in staying safe in a dangerous environment. However, recruitment and connectivity of threat-detecting regions with prefrontal regulatory regions may play a key role in determining adaptive and maladaptive emotional outcomes following childhood maltreatment. Delineating adaptive and maladaptive neurodevelopment following maltreatment is crucial if we are to advance our prevention and intervention strategies for the many harmful emotional effects of maltreatment.


Child maltreatment Pediatric PTSD Functional MRI Neurodevelopment Threat 



This work was supported by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and the National Institute of Mental Health. I am grateful for these sources of support, and for all of the staff, trainees, and participating families who have made this work possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public HealthMadisonUSA

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