Li Li

University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA

Title: Impact of childhood maltreatment on depression and metabolic syndrome


Li Li attended Medical School at Wuhan University, School of Medicine, in China. She, then, travelled to Atlanta, GA, where she completed her PhD degree, which was followed by her Post-doc training in the Department of Pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She completed her residency training in 2013 in the Department of Psychiatry at UAB. After residency, she was appointed as an Assistant Professor. She currently is funded by the NIDDK, NARSAD and NORC for her research. She has published more than 30 papers in reputed journals and has been serving as an Editorial Board Member.


Childhood maltreatment (CM), defined by exposure to abusive, neglectful or overtly traumatic experiences during childhood, contributes to psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder (MDD) and metabolic syndrome in adulthood. Additionally, there is consistent evidence from population-based cohort studies that MDD is associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and obesity. However, it remains unclear whether CM has a direct impact on the development of metabolic syndrome or if CM influences the development of metabolic syndrome in patients with MDD through diagnosis-dependent biological pathways. Studies were conducted to explore patho-physiological mechanisms that may link CM exposure and stress-related psychiatric disorders and metabolic syndrome. CM is highly prevalent in a sample of African-American/Caucasian patients with MDD. Our data also indicates that exposure to CM is linked with increased visceral fat deposition. Disturbance of HPA axis activity and activation of the immune system may be two potential mechanisms contributing to it. In addition, the association between CM and T2DM is also examined. Individuals with CM, especially in patients with MDD and CM exposure, are at elevated risk for T2DM. Mechanism underlying a greater risk for T2DM is due to, at least in part, a consequence of reduced insulin sensitivity and glucose intolerance. It is suggested by our results that CM exposure is linked with increased prevalence of MDD, disturbed visceral fat deposition and greater risk for T2DM. Our study has significant implications for the understanding of pathophysiology and potentially treatment of stress-related MDD and metabolic syndrome.