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  1. Abstract

    Assessing brain connectivity during rest has become a widely used approach to identify changes in functional brain organization during development. Generally, previous works have demonstrated that brain activity shifts from more local to more distributed processing from childhood into adolescence. However, the majority of those works have been based on functional magnetic resonance imaging measures, whereas multispectral functional connectivity, as measured using magnetoencephalography (MEG), has been far less characterized. In our study, we examined spontaneous cortical activity during eyes-closed rest using MEG in 101 typically developing youth (9–15 years old; 51 females, 50 males). Multispectral MEG images were computed, and connectivity was estimated in the canonical delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma bands using the imaginary part of the phase coherence, which was computed between 200 brain regions defined by the Schaefer cortical atlas. Delta and alpha connectivity matrices formed more communities as a function of increasing age. Connectivity weights predominantly decreased with age in both frequency bands; delta-band differences largely implicated limbic cortical regions and alpha band differences in attention and cognitive networks. These results are consistent with previous work, indicating the functional organization of the brain becomes more segregated across development, and highlight spectral specificity across different canonical networks.

     
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  2. Abstract Working memory, the ability to hold items in memory stores for further manipulation, is a higher order cognitive process that supports many aspects of daily life. Childhood trauma has been associated with altered cognitive development including particular deficits in verbal working memory (VWM), but the neural underpinnings remain poorly understood. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies of VWM have reliably shown decreased alpha activity in left-lateralized language regions during encoding, and increased alpha activity in parieto-occipital cortices during the maintenance phase. In this study, we examined whether childhood trauma affects behavioral performance and the oscillatory dynamics serving VWM using MEG in a cohort of 9- to 15-year-old youth. All participants completed a modified version of the UCLA Trauma History Profile and then performed a VWM task during MEG. Our findings indicated a sex-by-age-by-trauma three-way interaction, whereby younger females experiencing higher levels of trauma had the lowest d’ accuracy scores and the strongest positive correlations with age (i.e. older performed better). Likewise, females with higher levels of childhood trauma exhibited altered age-related alpha changes during the maintenance phase within the right temporal and parietal cortices. These findings suggest that trauma exposure may alter the developmental trajectory of neural oscillations serving VWM processing in a sex-specific way. 
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  3. Abstract Introduction

    The anterior pituitary gland (PG) is a potential locus of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis responsivity to early life stress, with documented associations between dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels and anterior PG volumes. In adults, elevated anxiety/depressive symptoms are related to diminished DHEA levels, and studies have shown a positive relationship between DHEA and anterior pituitary volumes. However, specific links between responses to stress, DHEA levels, and anterior pituitary volume have not been established in developmental samples.

    Methods

    High‐resolution T1‐weighted MRI scans were collected from 137 healthy youth (9–17 years;Mage = 12.99 (SD = 1.87); 49% female; 85% White, 4% Indigenous, 1% Asian, 4% Black, 4% multiracial, 2% not reported). The anterior and posterior PGs were manually traced by trained raters. We examined the mediating effects of salivary DHEA on trauma‐related symptoms (i.e., anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic) and PG volumes as well as an alternative model examining mediating effects of PG volume on DHEA and trauma‐related symptoms.

    Results

    DHEA mediated the association between anxiety symptoms and anterior PG volume. Specifically, higher anxiety symptoms related to lower DHEA levels, which in turn were related to smaller anterior PG.

    Conclusions

    These results shed light on the neurobiological sequelae of elevated anxiety in youth and are consistent with adult findings showing suppressed levels of DHEA in those with greater comorbid anxiety and depression. Specifically, adolescents with greater subclinical anxiety may exhibit diminished levels of DHEA during the pubertal window, which may be associated with disruptions in anterior PG growth.

     
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  4. Abstract

    The transition from childhood to adolescence is associated with an influx of sex hormones, which not only facilitates physical and behavioral changes, but also dramatic changes in neural circuitry. While previous work has shown that pubertal hormones modulate structural and functional brain development, few of these studies have focused on the impact that such hormones have on spontaneous cortical activity, and whether these effects are modulated by sex during this critical developmental window. Herein, we examined the effect of endogenous testosterone on spontaneous cortical activity in 71 typically‐developing youth (ages 10–17 years; 32 male). Participants completed a resting‐state magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recording, structural MRI, and provided a saliva sample for hormone analysis. MEG data were source‐reconstructed and the power within five canonical frequency bands (delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma) was computed. The resulting power spectral density maps were analyzed via vertex‐wise ANCOVAs to identify spatially specific effects of testosterone and sex by testosterone interactions, while covarying out age. We found robust sex differences in the modulatory effects of testosterone on spontaneous delta, beta, and gamma activity. These interactions were largely confined to frontal cortices and exhibited a stark switch in the directionality of the correlation from the low (delta) to high frequencies (beta/gamma). For example, in the delta band, greater testosterone related to lower relative power in prefrontal cortices in boys, while the reverse pattern was found for girls. These data suggest testosterone levels are uniquely related to the development of spontaneous cortical dynamics during adolescence, and such levels are associated with different developmental patterns in males and females within regions implicated in executive functioning.

     
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  5. Abstract

    In 2004, two papers proposed that pervasive functional under‐connectivity (Justet al.,) or a trade‐off between excessive local connectivity at the cost of distal under‐connectivity (Belmonteet al.,) characterizes atypical brain organization in autism. Here, we take stock of the most recent and rigorous functional and structural connectivity findings with a careful eye toward evaluating the extent to which they support these original hypotheses. Indeed, the empirical data do not support them. From rsfMRIstudies in adolescents and adults, there is an emerging consensus regarding long‐range functional connections indicating cortico‐cortical under‐connectivity, specifically involving the temporal lobes, combined with subcortical‐cortical over‐connectivity. In contrast, there is little to no consensus regarding local functional connectivity or findings from task‐based functional connectivity studies. The structural connectivity data suggest that white matter tracts are pervasively weak, particularly in the temporal lobe. Together, these findings are revealing how deeply complex the story is regarding atypical neural network organization in autism. In other words, distance and strength of connectivity as individual factors or as interacting factors do not consistently explain the patterns of atypical neural connectivity in autism. Therefore, we make several methodological recommendations and highlight developmental considerations that will help researchers in the field cultivate new hypotheses about the nature and mechanisms of potentially aberrant functional and structural connectivity in autism.

     
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