Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Department of Neuroscience

Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Sayamwong Hammock, PhD

Second Advisor

James Hudziak, MD


neuroscience, child adversity, white matter, anxiety, MRI, DKI, PTSD


Chronic activation of the stress response during childhood has been proposed to cause long-term maladaptive changes to the structure of stress response systems, resulting in chronic mental illness. This study helps us to understand how maltreatment in children is associated with differences in white matter integrity and how these factors relate to anxiety symptoms in children. Using Diffusional Kurtosis Imaging data, we examined 106 participants, aged 7-16. Approximately half of the participants were recruited through the Department for Children and Families, and had experienced at least one out-of-home placement following a verified instance of abuse or neglect. Associations between white matter integrity, environmental stressors, and anxiety symptoms were assessed. This study found that specific anxiety symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were associated with FA reductions. In addition, levels of general adversity and intrafamilial violence were both associated with Fractional Anisotropy reductions. Understanding the mechanisms by which early adversity is linked to long-term psychiatric outcomes is the first step in designing interventions for this vulnerable population.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.