BACKGROUND: There is now a well-established link between childhood adversity (CA) and schizophrenia. Similar structural abnormalities to those found in schizophrenia including alterations in grey-matter volume have also been shown in those who experience CA.
METHOD: We examined whether global estimates of cortical thickness or surface area were altered in those familial high-risk subjects who had been referred to a social worker or the Children's Panel compared to those who had not.
RESULTS: We found that the cortical surface area of those who were referred to the Children's Panel was significantly smaller than those who had not been referred, but cortical thickness was not significantly altered. There was also an effect of social work referral on cortical surface area but not on thickness.
CONCLUSIONS: Cortical surface area increases post-natally more than cortical thickness. Our findings suggest that CA can influence structural changes in the brain and it is likely to have a greater impact on cortical surface area than on cortical thickness.