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Annual Research Review: Pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder from a neurodevelopmental network perspective

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Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Published online on


--- - |2+ Background Experiencing traumatic stress is common and may lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a number of children and adolescents. Research using advanced imaging techniques is beginning to elucidate some of the neurobiological correlates of the traumatic stress response in youth. Methods This paper summarizes the emerging network perspective of PTSD symptoms and reviews brain imaging research emphasizing structural and functional connectivity studies that employ magnetic resonance imaging techniques in pediatric samples. Results Differences in structural connections and distributed functional networks such as the salience, default mode, and central executive networks are associated with traumatic and severe early life stress. The role of development has been relatively underappreciated in extant studies though there is evidence that critical brain regions as well as the structural and functional networks implicated undergo significant change in childhood and these typical developmental differences may be affected by traumatic stress. Conclusions Future research will benefit from adopting a truly developmental approach that considers children's growth as a meaningful effect (rather than simply a covariate) interacting with traumatic stress to predict disruptions in the anatomical, functional, and connective aspects of brain systems thought to underlie the network of PTSD symptoms. Linking symptom networks with neurodevelopmental network models may be a promising avenue for future work. - Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, EarlyView.