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Corporal Punishment and Brain Development

Posted Apr 23 2009 4:18pm

A study published in the March, 2009 issue of Neuroimage examines the role of harsh corporal punishment in later brain development. While harsh corporal punishment (HCP) during childhood has been identified as a chronic, developmental stressor associated with depression, aggression and addictive behaviors, there is little about the potential neurobiological consequences of HCP. The researchers used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to investigate whether HCP was associated with discernible alterations in gray matter volume (GMV). By screening 1,455 young adults (18-25 years), 23 subjects were identified with a history of HCP (minimum 3 years duration, 12 episodes per year, frequently involving objects) as well as 22 age-matched controls. High-resolution T1-weighted MRI datasets were obtained using Siemens 3T trio scanner. The results showed that GMV was reduced by 19.1% in the right medial frontal gyrus (medial prefrontal cortex; MPFC, BA10) (P=0.037, corrected cluster level), by 14.5% in the left medial frontal gyrus (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; DLPFC, BA 9) (P=0.015, uncorrected cluster level) and by 16.9% in the right anterior cingulate gyrus (BA 24) (P<0.001, uncorrected cluster level) of HCP subjects. There were significant correlations between GMV in these identified regions and performance IQ on the WAIS-III. The researchers concluded that exposing children to harsh HCP may have detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development although a causal relationship can not be clearly determined.

Click here for the abstract.

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