News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Does Developmental Timing of Exposure to Child Maltreatment Predict Memory Performance in Adulthood? Results from a Large, Population-Based Sample

By Erin C. Dunn, Daniel S. Busso, Miriam R. Raffeld, Jordan W. Smoller, Charles A. Nelson, Alysa E. Doyle, and Gigi Luk | Child Abuse & Neglect | November 13, 2015

Abstract:

Although maltreatment is a known risk factor for multiple adverse outcomes across the lifespan, its effects on cognitive development, especially memory, are poorly understood. Using data from a large, nationally representative sample of young adults (Add Health), we examined the effects of physical and sexual abuse on working and short-term memory in adulthood. We examined the association between exposure to maltreatment as well as its timing of first onset after adjusting for covariates. Of our sample, 16.50% of respondents were exposed to physical abuse and 4.36% to sexual abuse by age 17. An analysis comparing unexposed respondents to those exposed to physical or sexual abuse did not yield any significant differences in adult memory performance. However, two developmental time periods emerged as important for shaping memory following exposure to sexual abuse, but in opposite ways. Relative to non-exposed respondents, those exposed to sexual abuse during early childhood (ages 3-5), had better number recall and those first exposed during adolescence (ages 14-17) had worse number recall. However, other variables, including socioeconomic status, played a larger role (than maltreatment) on working and short-term memory. We conclude that a simple examination of “exposed” versus “unexposed” respondents may obscure potentially important within-group differences that are revealed by examining the effects of age at onset to maltreatment.

Read the entire paper here.

Exposure to Violence in Childhood is Associated with Higher Body Mass Index in Adolescence

By Holly C. Gooding, Carly Milliren, S. Bryn Austin, Margaret A. Sheridan, and Katie A. McLaughlin | Child Abuse & Neglect | August 21, 2015

Abstract:

To determine whether different types of childhood adversity are associated with body mass index (BMI) in adolescence, we studied 147 adolescents aged 13–17 years, 41% of whom reported exposure to at least one adversity (maltreatment, abuse, peer victimization, or witness to community or domestic violence). We examined associations between adversity type and age- and sex-specific BMI z-scores using linear regression and overweight and obese status using logistic regression. We adjusted for potential socio-demographic, behavioral, and psychological confounders and tested for effect modification by gender. Adolescents with a history of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or peer victimization did not have significantly different BMI z-scores than those without exposure (p > 0.05 for all comparisons). BMI z-scores were higher in adolescents who had experienced physical abuse (β = 0.50, 95% CI 0.12–0.91) or witnessed domestic violence (β = 0.85, 95% CI 0.30–1.40). Participants who witnessed domestic violence had almost 6 times the odds of being overweight or obese (95% CI: 1.09–30.7), even after adjustment for potential confounders. No gender-by-adversity interactions were found. Exposure to violence in childhood is associated with higher adolescent BMI. This finding highlights the importance of screening for violence in pediatric practice and providing obesity prevention counseling for youth.

Read the full paper here.