Childhood trauma and its impact on emotional brain circuits, mood disorder and treatment outcomes


In this presentation I talk about the way in which early life trauma impacts the emotional circuits of the human brain.  I cover the impact of trauma on the normal maturation of emotional brain circuits, how genetic variants interact with the effect of trauma to impact emotional brain circuits and risk for later depression and anxiety and how this interaction moderates treatment outcomes in depression.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the prevalence of early life trauma in the population and its role in risk for depression and anxiety
  • Understand the impact of trauma on the emotional  circuits of the human brain
  • Learn about new findings showing a combination of early life trauma, genetic variation and emotional brain circuit function predict response to depression treatments

Slides in PDF format




Leeanne Williams, PhD 

In 2013 I joined the Stanford faculty as a Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. I hold a joint position as I am currently a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and hold a joint appointment at the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers (MIRECC) at the Palo Alto Veterans Healthcare System. I was first at Stanford as a visiting Professor in 2011-12. My research lab, the Personalized and Translational Neuroscience Lab, spans both the Stanford and VA sites. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty I was Director of the Brain Dynamics Center at the Sydney Medical School from 2001 to 2013. In 2005, I was awarded a Pfizer Foundation Senior Research Fellowship. This is a $1M fellowship for high-risk biomedical research, awarded to one or two researchers in the country each year and aimed at retaining talented researchers. With this fellowship I established a trans-diagnostic translational program focused on developing a neural disconnection model of mental disorders. Midway through the Fellowship, in 2007, Sydney Medical School appointed me as the foundation Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry. I continue to hold an honorary professorial position with the Sydney Medical school. Centered around this position I grew a large interdisciplinary network, encompassing psychiatry, psychology, radiology, primary care, adolescent medicine and physics. Within this network I expanded both the computational foundations and the clinical applications of my research. During 2008 to 2013 I was the academic PI on two of the first multi-site pragmatic trials to integrate data from advanced brain imaging, physiological, behavioral and genetic assays in order to identify markers of classification and personalized treatment outcome in depression and ADHD. I was also co-PI of a Center of Excellence in Anxiety and Neuroscience, which was launched in 2008 and focused on PTSD. My PhD was awarded in 1996, and it was completed with a British Council scholarship for study at Oxford University.

Share: Pinterest