Temporal dynamics of stress-induced alternations of intrinsic amygdala connectivity and neuroendocrine levels.
ABSTRACT: Stress-induced changes in functional brain connectivity have been linked to the etiology of stress-related disorders. Resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) is especially informative in characterizing the temporal trajectory of glucocorticoids during stress adaptation. Using the imaging Maastricht Acute Stress Test (iMAST), we induced acute stress in 39 healthy volunteers and monitored the neuroendocrine stress levels during three runs of resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI): before (run 1), immediately following (run 2), and 30 min after acute stress (run 3). The iMAST resulted in strong increases in cortisol levels. Whole-brain analysis revealed that acute stress (run 2 - 1) was characterized by changes in connectivity of the amygdala with the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), ventral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), cuneus, parahippocampal gyrus, and culmen. Additionally, cortisol responders were characterized by enhanced amygdala - medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connectivity. Stress recovery (run 3 - 2) was characterized by altered amygdala connectivity with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), ventral and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), anterior hippocampal complex, cuneus, and presupplementary motor area (preSMA). Opposite to non-responders, cortisol responders were characterized by enhanced amygdala connectivity with the anterior hippocampal complex and parahippocampal gyrus, and reduced connectivity with left dlPFC, dACC, and culmen during early recovery. Acute stress responding and recovery are thus associated with changes in the functional connectivity of the amygdala network. Our findings show that these changes may be regulated via stress-induced neuroendocrine levels. Defining stress-induced neuronal network changes is pertinent to developing treatments that target abnormal neuronal activity.
Project description:The amygdala forms a crucial link between central pain and stress systems. Previous research indicates that psychological stress affects amygdala activity, but it is less clear how painful stressors influence subsequent amygdala functional connectivity. In the present study, we used pulsed arterial spin labeling (PASL) to investigate differences in healthy male adults' resting-state amygdala functional connectivity following a cold pressor versus a control task, with the stressor and control conditions being conducted on different days. During the period of peak cortisol response to acute stress (approximately 15-30 min after stressor onset), participants were asked to rest for 6 min with their eyes closed during a PASL scanning sequence. The cold pressor task led to reduced resting-state functional connectivity between the amygdalae and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and this occurred irrespective of cortisol release. The stressor also induced greater inverse connectivity between the left amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a brain region implicated in the down-regulation of amygdala responsivity. Furthermore, the degree of poststressor left amygdala decoupling with the lateral OFC varied according to self-reported pain intensity during the cold pressor task. These findings indicate that the cold pressor task alters amygdala interactions with prefrontal and ACC regions 15-30 min after the stressor, and that these altered functional connectivity patterns are related to pain perception rather than cortisol feedback.
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: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: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:When acute stress is experienced immediately after memory encoding (i.e., post-encoding stress) it can significantly impact subsequent memory for that event. For example, recent work has suggested that post-encoding stress occurring in a different context from encoding impairs memory. However, the neural processes underlying these effects are poorly understood. We aimed to expand this understanding by conducting an analysis of resting functional connectivity in the period following post-encoding stress that occurred in a different context than encoding, using seed regions in the medial temporal lobes known for their roles in memory. In the current study of 44 males randomized to stress (n?=?23) or control (n?=?21) groups, we found that stress increased cortisol, impaired recollection of neutral materials, and altered functional connectivity with medial temporal lobe regions. Although stress did not significantly alter hippocampus-amygdala functional connectivity, relative to participants in the control group, participants in the post-encoding stress group showed lower functional connectivity between the hippocampus and a region with a peak in the superior temporal gyrus. Across participants in both groups, functional connectivity between these regions was related to greater increases in cortisol, and it was also inversely related to recollection of neutral materials. In contrast, the stress group showed greater parahippocampal cortex functional connectivity with a region in the left middle temporal gyrus than the control group. Moreover, greater functional connectivity between the parahippocampal cortex and the observed cluster in the middle temporal gyrus was associated with greater cortisol changes from pre- to post-manipulation, but was not related to differences in memory. The results show that post-encoding stress can alter the resting-state functional connectivity between the medial temporal lobe and neocortex, which may help explain how stress impacts memory.
Project description:The amygdala plays a critical role in emotion. Its functional coupling with the hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex extending to a portion of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is implicated in anxiogenesis and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system regulation. However, it remains unclear how amygdala-centred functional connectivity (FC) affects anxiety and cortisol concentrations in everyday life. Here, we investigate the relationship between daily cortisol concentrations (dCOR) and amygdala-centred FC during emotional processing in forty-one healthy humans. FC analyses revealed that higher dCOR predicted strengthened amygdala-centred FC with the hippocampus and cerebellum, but inhibited FC with the supramarginal gyrus and a perigenual part of the ACC (pgACC) when processing fearful faces (vs. neutral faces). Notably, the strength of amygdala-hippocampus FC mediated the positive relationship between cortisol and anxiety, specifically when the effect of amygdala-pgACC FC, a presumptive neural indicator of emotional control, was taken into account. Individuals with diminished connectivity between the amygdala and pgACC during fear-related processing might be more vulnerable to anxiogenesis as it pertains to greater circulating cortisol levels in everyday life. Individual functional patterns of amygdala-hippocampal-pgACC connectivity might provide a key to understand the complicate link between cortisol and anxiety-related behaviors.
Project description:Under typical conditions, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connections with the amygdala are immature during childhood and become adult-like during adolescence. Rodent models show that maternal deprivation accelerates this development, prompting examination of human amygdala-mPFC phenotypes following maternal deprivation. Previously institutionalized youths, who experienced early maternal deprivation, exhibited atypical amygdala-mPFC connectivity. Specifically, unlike the immature connectivity (positive amygdala-mPFC coupling) of comparison children, children with a history of early adversity evidenced mature connectivity (negative amygdala-mPFC coupling) and thus, resembled the adolescent phenotype. This connectivity pattern was mediated by the hormone cortisol, suggesting that stress-induced modifications of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis shape amygdala-mPFC circuitry. Despite being age-atypical, negative amygdala-mPFC coupling conferred some degree of reduced anxiety, although anxiety was still significantly higher in the previously institutionalized group. These findings suggest that accelerated amygdala-mPFC development is an ontogenetic adaptation in response to early adversity.
Project description:The amygdala has long been considered a vital region involved in acute and chronic stress responses. Extensive evidences from animal and human studies suggest that the functional connectivity of amygdalar subnuclei (basolateral amygdala (BLA), centromedial amygdala (CMA) and superficial amygdala (SFA)) undergo specific alterations in stress-related psychopathology. However, whether and how intrinsic functional connectivity within the amygdalar subcomponents is differently altered in the aftermath of an acute stressor remains unknown. In the present study, using a within-subject design, we examined the impact of acute psychological social stress on the functional connectivity of amygdalar subregions at rest. Results showed that stress mainly affected the connectivity pattern of CMA. In particular, in the stress condition compared with the control, the connectivity of CMA to left posterior cingulate cortex and right thalamus was decreased under stress, while the connectivity of CMA to left caudate connectivity was increased at rest post-stressor. The findings suggest that healthy individuals may adapt to threatening surroundings by reducing threatening information input, and shifting to well-learned procedural behaviors.
Project description:Impulsive aggression is common among military personnel after deployment and may arise because of impaired top-down regulation of the amygdala by prefrontal regions. This study sought to further explore this hypothesis via resting-state functional connectivity analyses in impulsively aggressive combat veterans. Male combat veterans with (n?=?28) and without (n?=?30) impulsive aggression problems underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Functional connectivity analyses were conducted with the following seed-regions: basolateral amygdala (BLA), centromedial amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and anterior insular cortex (AIC). Regions-of-interest analyses focused on the orbitofrontal cortex and periaqueductal gray, and yielded no significant results. In exploratory cluster analyses, we observed reduced functional connectivity between the (bilateral) BLA and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the impulsive aggression group, relative to combat controls. This finding indicates that combat-related impulsive aggression may be marked by weakened functional connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal regions, already in the absence of explicit emotional stimuli. Group differences in functional connectivity were also observed between the (bilateral) ACC and left cuneus, which may be related to heightened vigilance to potentially threatening visual cues, as well as between the left AIC and right temporal pole, possibly related to negative memory association in impulsive aggression.