Impact of early life adversity and tryptophan depletion on functional connectivity in menopausal women: A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study

Sheila Shanmugan, Theodore D Satterthwaite, Mary D Sammel, Wen Cao, Kosha Ruparel, Ruben C Gur, C Neill Epperson, James Loughead

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2017 July 14, 84: 197-205


During the menopause transition, women are at increased risk of subjective symptoms of executive dysfunction. Evidence from animal and human participant studies suggests adverse childhood experiences (ACE) may be a risk factor for executive complaints during this hormonal transition. Preclinical literature indicates early life adversity effects on serotonin function may play a role in this increased susceptibility. However, the mechanisms underlying this increase in vulnerability in human participants remain relatively unknown. Here we examined the impact of ACE and tryptophan depletion (TD), a paradigm used to lower central serotonin levels, on functional network connectivity in discovery and replication datasets. We hypothesized that ACE would be associated with decreased within-network connectivity. We predicted that TD would further lower connectivity in women with high levels of early adversity, but have no effect in women with low levels of early adversity. Forty women underwent two functional imaging sequences at two time points (141 total scans) in a double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study. The effects of ACE and TD were evaluated using generalized estimating equations (GEE). As predicted, ACE was associated with lower within-network connectivity. While TD had no effect on connectivity in the low ACE group, TD increased connectivity in the high ACE group. The robust effect of ACE remained significant in the replication dataset, though the ACE×TD interaction did not. Together, these results suggest that early life adversity has lasting impacts on large-scale functional networks underlying executive function. Alterations in functional network connectivity may be one mechanism by which early life adversity increases the risk of cognitive disorders during menopause.


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