Divorce and Brain Integrity

Proposal details

Title: Examining the Role of Parental Divorce Versus Other Forms of Early Life Stress on Indices of Brain Integrity
Research Area(s): Emotion and Self Regulation
Brain Imaging
Thinking and Cognition
Background: Prior research has indicated that parental divorce and other forms of early life stress (ELS) are related to a host of negative psychological and physical health outcomes. Individuals who have experienced ELS have been observed to exhibit neurocognitive deficits, alterations in brain volumes, and reduced white matter (WM) integrity. However, the specific role of parental divorce as a form of ELS in relation to brain integrity is unknown. One study found evidence for long-term HPA axis activity among adults whose parents divorced (Bloch, Peleg, Aner, & Klien, 2007). Parental divorce may therefore result in reductions in brain integrity, although this has not been determined. Given the high prevalence of parental divorce, research is needed to investigate whether parental divorce is associated with reduced brain integrity. The prior work to date has yet to contrast parental divorce to other types of ELS on measures of brain integrity. Further, as parental divorce may coincide with other forms of ELS, work is also needed to determine the influence of dual exposure to divorce and other types of ELS on indices of brain integrity. The combined effect of parental divorce and other forms of ELS on neurocognitive functioning, brain volumes, and WM integrity has not been previously examined.
Aims: 1) Examine the influence of parental divorce on indices of brain integrity. It is expected that exposure to ELS will be associated with neurocognitive deficits, smaller brain volumes, and reduced WM integrity. 2.) Contrast the experience of parental divorce to other forms of ELS on measures of brain integrity. 3.) Compare the relationship between dual exposure to parental divorce and other forms of ELS with exposure to either parental divorce or other forms of ELS. Exposure to both parental divorce and other forms of ELS is expected to result in poorer outcomes as compared to exposure to parental divorce or other forms of ELS alone.
Method: The associations between parental divorce and other forms of ELS and on neurocognitive deficits, brain volumes, and WM integrity will be examined.