Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience


Little is known about how childhood adversity influences the development of learning and memory and underlying neural circuits. We examined whether violence exposure in childhood influenced hippocampus-dependent associative learning and whether differences: a) were broad or specific to threat cues, and b) exhibited developmental variation. Children (n = 59; 8–19 years, 24 violence-exposed) completed an associative learning task with angry, happy, and neutral faces paired with objects during fMRI scanning. Outside the scanner, participants completed an associative memory test for face-object pairings. Violence-exposed children exhibited broad associative memory difficulties that became more pronounced with age, along with reduced recruitment of the hippocampus and atypical recruitment of fronto-parietal regions during encoding. Violence-exposed children also showed selective disruption of associative memory for threat cues regardless of age, along with reduced recruitment of the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) during encoding in the presence of threat. Broad associative learning difficulties may be a functional consequence of the toxic effects of early-life stress on hippocampal and fronto-parietal cortical development. Difficulties in the presence of threat cues may result from enhanced threat processing that disrupts encoding and short-term storage of associative information in the IPS. These associative learning difficulties may contribute to poor life outcomes following childhood violence exposure.


Associative learning, Childhood adversity, Early-life stress, Hippocampus, Violence








Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.