The imprint of childhood adversity on emotional processing in high functioning young adults

Aron Mirman, Atira S. Bick, Carmel Kalla, Laura Canetti, Ronen Segman, Rotem Dan, Ariel Ben Yehuda, Netta Levin*, Omer Bonne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been acknowledged as risk factors for increased mental health complications in adulthood, specifically increasing susceptibility to developing psychopathology upon exposure to trauma. Yet, little is known regarding the impact of mild ACEs on highly functioning population. In this study forty participants were selected from a group of 366 highly selected military parachute trainees using the self-report “childhood trauma questionnaire,” and classified into two groups of 20 each, with and without ACEs. Behavioral measurements were obtained before and at the peak of an intensive combat training period, including anxiety, depression and executive function assessment. Functional MRI including a negative emotional face perception task was conducted at the first time point. Psychometric and cognitive measurements revealed higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms, and more difficulties in executive functioning in the ACE group at baseline. Slower reaction time to emotional faces presentation was found in the ACE group. Lower activation in response to negative emotional faces stimuli was found in this group in bilateral secondary visual areas, left anterior insula, left parietal cortex and left primary motor and sensory regions. In contrast, higher activation in the ACE group was found in the right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex (Vlpfc). No significant differences between groups were detected in the amygdala. To conclude, mild adverse childhood experiences produce long-term sequela on psychological wellbeing and neurocircuitry even in high functioning population. Brain regions modulated by childhood trauma may instigate avoidance mechanisms dampening the emotional and cognitive effects of intensive stress.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)615-625
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Human Brain Mapping published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • PTSD
  • adverse childhood experiences
  • avoidance
  • functional MRI
  • trauma


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