Individual Differences in Sensitivity to the Early Environment as a Function of Amygdala and Hippocampus Volumes: An Exploratory Analysis in 12-Year Old Boys

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Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Queen Mary University
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • University College London
  • King's College London


Children differ in their response to environmental exposures with some being more sensitive to contextual factors than others. According to theory, such variability is the result of individual differences in neurobiological sensitivity to environmental features with some being generally more affected by both negative and/or positive experiences. In this exploratory study we tested whether left and right amygdala and hippocampus volumes (corrected for total brain size) account for individual differences in response to environmental influences in a sample of 62 boys. Cumulative general environmental quality, ranging from low to high, was measured across the first nine years and child behavior was reported by teachers when boys were 12-13 years old. According to analyses, only the left amygdala volume, but not any of the other brain volumes, emerged as an important brain region for sensitivity to positive environmental aspects. Boys with a larger left amygdala benefited significantly more from higher environmental quality than boys with a smaller left amygdala whilst not being more vulnerable to lower quality. Besides providing preliminary evidence for differences in Environmental Sensitivity due to brain structure, results also point to the left amygdala as having a specific role regarding the response to environmental influences.


Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2020