Editors: Margaret Sheridan, Ph.D.; Katie McLaughlin, Ph.D

Increasing evidence suggests that social and environmental factors in early life play a critical role in shaping neurodevelopment.  Exposure to a wide range of adverse childhood experiences—including poverty, abuse, neglect, and violence—appears to influence multiple aspects of brain structure and function.  Despite strong evidence for the links between adverse childhood experiences and neural outcomes, studies investigating how adversity influences age-related variation in neural structure, function, and connectivity or longitudinal changes in these neural outcomes over time remain limited. Exploring these neurodevelopmental processes is the goal of an upcoming special issue of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 

We are seeking empirical papers examining the influence of childhood adversity on neural development, including age-related variation in neural structure, function or connectivity in children and adolescents.  We plan to frame the special issue around several theoretical models of adversity and neurodevelopment. To that end, we are particularly interested in studies that are grounded in one of the following conceptual models-specifically, studies can evaluate evidence for a particular model and/or compare and contrast among them:

  • Cumulative risk approaches –Many studies have examined the impact of the number of adversities on developmental outcome. Papers taking this approach would examine the degree or amount of exposure as a predictor of neural function/structure/connectivity either at a single time point or across development.
  • Differential impact of different adversities– A number of recent theories have posited that different forms of adversity, either dimensions of adverse experience or specific adversity types impact neural development differentially.  Papers taking this approach would compare at least two forms of adversity as predictors of neural function/structure/connectivity either at a single time point or across development.
  • Accelerated development –A recent theoretical model argues that exposure to adversity might influence the pace of neural development, specifically in certain circuits.  Papers examining this idea should evaluate age-related patterns of neural structure and function differ among children exposed to a particular form of adversity relative to children who have not experienced adversity.  We are interested in papers examining this idea across a range of neural networks and measures of structure and function.

Given the recent increase in family migration worldwide as well as changes in US policy, any empirical papers specifically addressing adversity exposure in migrant children will be preferentially reviewed. 

The review process will include two stages.  The first stage will involve submission of an abstract formatted for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. The abstract can be up to 500 words long allowing for more detailed description of methods and results and may include one figure.  Following review of these abstracts, authors will be invited to submit a full paper. The timeline for the special issue and submission dates is below.

Timeline for Submissions:

November 30, 2019: Abstracts due

December 20, 2019: Invitations extended for full manuscripts

March 15, 2020: Invited manuscripts due

July 1, 2020: Reviews provided to authors

September 1, 2020: Revised manuscripts due

Fall 2020: Special issue will appear online