Developmental pathways to amygdala-prefrontal function and internalizing symptoms in adolescence.
ABSTRACT: Early life stress (ELS) and function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis predict later psychopathology. Animal studies and cross-sectional human studies suggest that this process might operate through amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) circuitry implicated in the regulation of emotion. Here we prospectively investigated the roles of ELS and childhood basal cortisol amounts in the development of adolescent resting-state functional connectivity (rs-FC), assessed by functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI), in the amygdala-PFC circuit. In females only, greater ELS predicted increased childhood cortisol levels, which predicted decreased amygdala-vmPFC rs-FC 14 years later. For females, adolescent amygdala-vmPFC functional connectivity was inversely correlated with concurrent anxiety symptoms but positively associated with depressive symptoms, suggesting differing pathways from childhood cortisol levels function through adolescent amygdala-vmPFC functional connectivity to anxiety and depression. These data highlight that, for females, the effects of ELS and early HPA-axis function may be detected much later in the intrinsic processing of emotion-related brain circuits.
Project description:Adverse childhood experiences have been associated with more negative coupling between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and amygdala, a brain network involved in emotion regulation in both children and adults. This pattern may be particularly likely to emerge in individuals exposed to threatening experiences during childhood (e.g., exposure to child abuse), although this has not been examined in prior research. We collected functional magnetic resonance imaging data on 57 adolescents during an emotion regulation task. Greater negative functional connectivity between vmPFC and amygdala occurred during viewing of negative compared to neutral images. This vmPFC-amygdala task-related functional connectivity was more negative in adolescents exposed to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse than those without a history of maltreatment and was associated with abuse severity. This pattern of more negative functional connectivity was associated with higher levels of externalizing psychopathology concurrently and 2 years later. Greater negative connectivity in the vmPFC-amygdala network during passive viewing of negative images may reflect disengagement of regulatory responses from vmPFC in situations eliciting strong amygdala reactivity, potentially due to stronger appraisals of threat in children exposed to early threatening environments. This pattern may be adaptive in the short term but place adolescents at higher risk of psychopathology later in life.
Project description:Animal models of early life stress (ELS) are characterized by augmented amygdala response to threat and altered amygdala-dependent behaviors. These models indicate the amygdala is a heterogeneous structure with well-differentiated subnuclei. The most well characterized of these being basolateral (BLA) and central nucleus (CeA). Parallel human imaging findings relative to ELS also reveal enhanced amygdala reactivity and disrupted connectivity but the influence of ELS on amygdala subregion connectivity and modulation of emotion is unclear. Here we employed cytoarchitectonic probability maps of amygdala subregions and Granger causality methods to evaluate task-based intra-amygdaloid and extra-amygdaloid connectivity with the network underlying implicit regulation of emotion in response to unconditioned auditory threat in healthy controls with ELS (N=20) and without a history of ELS (N=14). Groups were determined by response to the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and threat response determined by unpleasantness ratings. Non-ELS demonstrated narrowly defined BLA-driven intra-amygdaloid paths and concise orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)-CeA-driven extra-amygdaloid connectivity. In contrast, ELS was associated with extensive and robust CeA-facilitated intra- and extra-amygdaloid paths. Non-ELS findings paralleled the known anatomical organization and functional relationships for both intra- and extra-amygdaloid connectivity, while ELS demonstrated atypical intra- and extra-amygdaloid CeA-dominant paths with compensatory modulation of emotion. Specifically, negative causal paths from OFC/BA32 to BLA predicted decreased threat response among non-ELS, while a unique within-amygdala path predicted modulation of threat among ELS. These findings are consistent with compensatory mechanisms of emotion regulation following ELS among resilient persons originating both within the amygdala complex as well as subsequent extra-amygdaloid communication.
Project description:Previous evidence shows that acute stress changes both amygdala activity and its connectivity with a distributed brain network. Early life stress (ELS), especially emotional abuse (EA), is associated with altered reactivity to psychosocial stress in adulthood and moderates or even reverses the stress-attenuating effect of oxytocin (OXT). The neural underpinnings of the interaction between ELS and OXT remain unclear, though. Therefore, we here investigate the joint effect of ELS and OXT on transient changes in amygdala-centered functional connectivity induced by acute psychosocial stress, using a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, within-subject crossover design. Psychophysiological interaction analysis in the placebo session revealed stress-induced increases in functional connectivity between amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, putamen, caudate and thalamus. Regression analysis showed that EA was positively associated with stress-induced changes in connectivity between amygdala and hippocampus. Moreover, hierarchical linear regression showed that this positive association between EA and stress-induced amygdala-hippocampal connectivity was moderated after the administration of intranasal OXT. Amygdala-hippocampal connectivity in the OXT session correlated negatively with cortisol stress responses. Our findings suggest that altered amygdala-hippocampal functional connectivity during psychosocial stress may have a crucial role in the altered sensitivity to OXT effects in individuals who have experienced EA in their childhood.
Project description:Emotion regulation is a critical life skill that develops throughout childhood and adolescence. Despite this development in emotional processes, little is known about how the underlying brain systems develop with age. This study examined emotion regulation in 112 individuals (aged 6-23 years) as they viewed aversive and neutral images using a reappraisal task. On "reappraisal" trials, participants were instructed to view the images as distant, a strategy that has been previously shown to reduce negative affect. On "reactivity" trials, participants were instructed to view the images without regulating emotions to assess baseline emotional responding. During reappraisal, age predicted less negative affect, reduced amygdala responses and inverse coupling between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and amygdala. Moreover, left ventrolateral prefrontal (vlPFC) recruitment mediated the relationship between increasing age and diminishing amygdala responses. This negative vlPFC-amygdala association was stronger for individuals with inverse coupling between the amygdala and vmPFC. These data provide evidence that vmPFC-amygdala connectivity facilitates vlPFC-related amygdala modulation across development.
Project description:Extinction of conditioned fear embodies a crucial mechanism incorporated in exposure therapy. Clinical studies demonstrated that application of the stress hormone cortisol before exposure sessions facilitates exposure success, but the underlying neural correlates remain unknown. Context- and stimulus-dependent cortisol effects on extinction learning will be characterized in this study and tested in the extinction and in a new context. Forty healthy men participated in a 3-day fear conditioning experiment with fear acquisition in context A (day 1), extinction training in context B (day 2), and recall in context B and a new context C one week later (day 3). Hydrocortisone (30?mg) or placebo was given before extinction training. Blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses and skin conductance responses (SCRs) served as dependent measures. At the beginning of extinction training, cortisol reduced conditioned SCRs, diminished activation of the amygdala-hippocampal complex, and enhanced functional connectivity of the anterior parahippocampal gyrus with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). After one week, the cortisol group showed increased hippocampal activation and connectivity to the vmPFC toward an extinguished stimulus and reduced insula activation toward a nonextinguished stimulus in the extinction context. However, this inhibitory cortisol effect did not extend to the new context. Taken together, cortisol reduced fear recall at the beginning of extinction and facilitated the consolidation of the extinction memory as evidenced by an inhibitory activation pattern one week later. The stress hormone exerted a critical impact on the amygdala-hippocampus-vmPFC network underlying fear and extinction memories. However, cortisol did not attenuate the context dependency of extinction.
Project description:Childhood adversity is heterogeneous with potentially distinct dimensions of violence exposure and social deprivation. These dimensions may differentially shape emotion-based neural circuitry, such as amygdala-PFC white matter connectivity. Amygdala-orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) white matter connectivity has been linked to regulation of the amygdala's response to emotional stimuli. Using a preregistered analysis plan, we prospectively examined the effects of childhood exposure to two dimensions of adversity, violence exposure and social deprivation, on the adolescent amygdala-PFC white matter connectivity. We also reproduced the negative correlation between amygdala-PFC white matter connectivity and amygdala activation to threat faces. 183 15-17-year-olds were recruited from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study - a longitudinal, birth cohort, sample of predominantly low-income youth. Probabilistic tractography revealed that childhood violence exposure and social deprivation interacted to predict the probability of adolescent right hemisphere amygdala-OFC white matter connectivity. High violence exposure with high social deprivation related to less amygdala-OFC white matter connectivity. Violence exposure was not associated with white matter connectivity when social deprivation was at mean or low levels (i.e., relatively socially supportive contexts). Therefore, social deprivation may exacerbate the effects of childhood violence exposure on the development of white matter connections involved in emotion processing and regulation. Conversely, social support may buffer against them.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:The functioning of neural systems supporting emotion processing and regulation in youth with bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS) remains poorly understood. We sought to examine patterns of activity and connectivity in youth with BP-NOS relative to youth with bipolar disorder type I (BP-I) and healthy controls (HC). METHOD:Participants (18 BP-I youth, 16 BP-NOS youth, and 18 HC) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing two emotional-face gender labeling tasks (happy/neutral, fearful/neutral). Analyses focused on a priori neural regions supporting emotion processing (amygdala) and emotion regulation (ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Connectivity analyses used VMPFC as a seed region. RESULTS:During the happy-face task, BP-I youth had greater amygdala, VMPFC, and DLPFC activity to happy faces whereas BP-NOS youth had reduced VMPFC and DLPFC activity to neutral faces relative to HC, and reduced amygdala, VMPFC, and DLPFC activity to neutral faces versus BP-I. During the fearful-face task, BP-I youth had reduced DLPFC activity to fearful faces whereas BP-NOS youth had reduced DLPFC activity to neutral faces relative to HC. BP-NOS youth showed greater VMPFC-DLPFC connectivity to happy faces relative to HC and BP-I youth. BP-I youth showed reduced VMPFC-amygdala connectivity to fearful faces relative to HC and BP-NOS youth. CONCLUSIONS:This is the first study to document differential patterns of abnormal neural activity in, and connectivity between, neural regions supporting emotion processing and regulation in BP-NOS versus BP-I youth. Findings suggest that despite similarities in symptom presentation, there are differential patterns of abnormal neural functioning in BP-NOS and BP-I relative to HC, which might reflect an "intermediate state" in the course of BP-I illness. Future longitudinal studies are needed to relate these findings with future conversion to BP-I/II.
Project description:People with schizophrenia exhibit impaired social cognitive functions, particularly emotion regulation. Abnormal activations of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC) during emotional tasks have been demonstrated in schizophrenia, suggesting its important role in emotion processing in patients. We used the resting-state functional connectivity approach, setting a functionally relevant region, the vMPFC, as a seed region to examine the intrinsic functional interactions and communication between the vMPFC and other brain regions in schizophrenic patients. We found hypo-connectivity between the vMPFC and the medial frontal cortex, right middle temporal lobe (MTL), right hippocampus, parahippocampal cortex (PHC) and amygdala. Further, there was a decreased strength of the negative connectivity (or anticorrelation) between the vMPFC and the bilateral dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and pre-supplementary motor areas. Among these connectivity alterations, reduced vMPFC-DLPFC connectivity was positively correlated with positive symptoms on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, while vMPFC-right MTL/PHC/amygdala functional connectivity was positively correlated with the performance of emotional regulation in patients. These findings imply that communication and coordination throughout the brain networks are disrupted in schizophrenia. The emotional correlates of vMPFC connectivity suggest a role of the hypo-connectivity between these regions in the neuropathology of abnormal social cognition in chronic schizophrenia.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Exposure to threat-related early life stress (ELS) has been related to vulnerability for stress-related disorders in adulthood, putatively via disrupted corticolimbic circuits involved in stress response and regulation. However, previous research on ELS has not examined both the intrinsic strength and flexibility of corticolimbic circuits, which may be particularly important for adaptive stress responding, or associations between these dimensions of corticolimbic dysfunction and acute stress response in adulthood. METHODS:Seventy unmedicated women varying in history of threat-related ELS completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan to evaluate voxelwise static (overall) and dynamic (variability over a series of sliding windows) resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) of bilateral amygdala. In a separate session and subset of participants (n = 42), measures of salivary cortisol and affect were collected during a social-evaluative stress challenge. RESULTS:Higher severity of threat-related ELS was related to more strongly negative static RSFC between amygdala and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and elevated dynamic RSFC between amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC). Static amygdala-DLPFC antagonism mediated the relationship between higher severity of threat-related ELS and blunted cortisol response to stress, but increased dynamic amygdala-rACC connectivity weakened this mediated effect and was related to more positive post-stress mood. CONCLUSIONS:Threat-related ELS was associated with RSFC within lateral corticolimbic circuits, which in turn was related to blunted physiological response to acute stress. Notably, increased flexibility between the amygdala and rACC compensated for this static disruption, suggesting that more dynamic medial corticolimbic circuits might be key to restoring healthy stress response.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Connectivity between the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is compromised in multiple psychiatric disorders, many of which emerge during adolescence. To identify to what extent the deviations in amygdala-vmPFC maturation contribute to the onset of psychiatric disorders, it is essential to characterize amygdala-vmPFC connectivity changes during typical development. METHODS:Using an accelerated cohort longitudinal design (1-3 time points, 10-25 years old, n = 246), we characterized developmental changes of the amygdala-vmPFC subregion functional and structural connectivity using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion-weighted imaging. RESULTS:Functional connectivity between the centromedial amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), anterior vmPFC, and subgenual cingulate significantly decreased from late childhood to early adulthood in male and female subjects. Age-associated decreases were also observed between the basolateral amygdala and the rACC. Importantly, these findings were replicated in a separate cohort (10-22 years old, n = 327). Similarly, structural connectivity, as measured by quantitative anisotropy, significantly decreased with age in the same regions. Functional connectivity between the centromedial amygdala and the rACC was associated with structural connectivity in these same regions during early adulthood (22-25 years old). Finally, a novel time-varying coefficient analysis showed that increased centromedial amygdala-rACC functional connectivity was associated with greater anxiety and depression symptoms during early adulthood, while increased structural connectivity in centromedial amygdala-anterior vmPFC white matter was associated with greater anxiety/depression during late childhood. CONCLUSIONS:Specific developmental periods of functional and structural connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal systems may contribute to the emergence of anxiety and depressive symptoms and may play a critical role in the emergence of psychiatric disorders in adolescence.