Amygdala reactivity to negative stimuli is influenced by oral contraceptive use.
ABSTRACT: The amygdala is a highly interconnected region of the brain that is critically important to emotional processing and affective networks. Previous studies have shown that the response of the amygdala to emotionally arousing stimuli can be modulated by sex hormones. Because oral contraceptive pills dramatically lower circulating sex hormone levels with potent analogs of those hormones, we performed a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment to measure amygdala reactivity in response to emotional stimuli in women using oral contraceptives, and compared their amygdala reactivity with that of naturally cycling women. Here, we show that women who use oral contraceptive pills have significantly decreased bilateral amygdala reactivity in response to negatively valenced, emotionally arousing stimuli compared with naturally cycling women. We suggest that by modulating amygdala reactivity, oral contraceptive pills may influence behaviors that have previously been shown to be amygdala dependent-in particular, emotional memory.
Project description:Psychological studies have found better memory in women than men for emotional events, but the neural basis for this difference is unknown. We used event-related functional MRI to assess whether sex differences in memory for emotional stimuli is associated with activation of different neural systems in men and women. Brain activation in 12 men and 12 women was recorded while they rated their experience of emotional arousal in response to neutral and emotionally negative pictures. In a recognition memory test 3 weeks after scanning, highly emotional pictures were remembered best, and remembered better by women than by men. Men and women activated different neural circuits to encode stimuli effectively into memory even when the analysis was restricted to pictures rated equally arousing by both groups. Men activated significantly more structures than women in a network that included the right amygdala, whereas women activated significantly fewer structures in a network that included the left amygdala. Women had significantly more brain regions where activation correlated with both ongoing evaluation of emotional experience and with subsequent memory for the most emotionally arousing pictures. Greater overlap in brain regions sensitive to current emotion and contributing to subsequent memory may be a neural mechanism for emotions to enhance memory more powerfully in women than in men.
Project description:The lower-expressing (S') alleles of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) are linked to mood and anxiety related psychopathology. However, the specific neural mechanism through which these alleles may influence emotional and cognitive processing remains unknown. We examined the relationship between both 5-HTTLPR genotype and in vivo 5-HTT binding quantified via PET with amygdala reactivity to emotionally negative stimuli. We hypothesized that 5-HTT binding in both raphe nuclei (RN) and amygdala would be inversely correlated with amygdala reactivity, and that number of S' alleles would correlate positively with amygdala reactivity.In medication-free patients with current major depressive disorder (MDD; N=21), we determined 5-HTTLPR genotype, employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine amygdala responses to negative emotional stimuli, and used positron emission tomography with [(11)C]DASB to examine 5-HTT binding.[(11)C]DASB binding in RN and amygdala was inversely correlated with amygdala response to negative stimuli. 5-HTTLPR S' alleles were not associated with amygdala response to negative emotional stimuli.Primary limitations are small sample size and lack of control group.Consistent with findings in healthy volunteers, 5-HTT binding is associated with amygdala reactivity to emotional stimuli in MDD. 5-HTT binding may be a stronger predictor of emotional processing in MDD as compared with 5-HTTLPR genotype.
Project description:It is hypothesized that emotional arousal modulates long-term memory consolidation through the amygdala. Gaseous anesthetic agents are among the most potent drugs that cause temporary amnesia, yet the effects of inhalational anesthesia on human emotional memory processing remain unknown. To study this, two experiments were performed with the commonly used inhalational anesthetic sevoflurane. In experiment 1, volunteers responded to a series of emotional and neutral slides while under various subanesthetic doses of sevoflurane or placebo (no anesthesia). One week later, a mnemonic boost for emotionally arousing stimuli was evident in the placebo, 0.1%, and 0.2% sevoflurane groups, as measured with a recognition test. However, the mnemonic boost was absent in subjects who received 0.25% sevoflurane. Subsequently, in experiment 2, glucose PET assessed brain-state-related activity of subjects exposed to 0.25% sevoflurane. Structural equation modeling of the PET data revealed that 0.25% sevoflurane suppressed amygdala to hippocampal effective connectivity. The behavioral results show that 0.25% sevoflurane blocks emotional memory, and connectivity results demonstrate that this dose of sevoflurane suppresses the effective influence of the amygdala. Collectively, the findings support the hypothesis that the amygdala mediates memory modulation by demonstrating that suppressed amygdala effectiveness equates with a loss of emotional memory.
Project description:Determining the ways in which personality traits interact with contextual determinants to shape social behavior remains an important area of empirical investigation. The specific personality trait of neuroticism has been related to characteristic negative emotionality and associated with heightened attention to negative, emotionally arousing environmental signals. However, the mechanisms by which this personality trait may shape social behavior remain largely unspecified.We employed eye tracking to investigate the relationship between characteristics of visual scanpaths in response to emotional facial expressions and individual differences in personality. We discovered that the amount of time spent looking at the eyes of fearful faces was positively related to neuroticism.This finding is discussed in relation to previous behavioral research relating personality to selective attention for trait-congruent emotional information, neuroimaging studies relating differences in personality to amygdala reactivity to socially relevant stimuli, and genetic studies suggesting linkages between the serotonin transporter gene and neuroticism. We conclude that personality may be related to interpersonal interaction by shaping aspects of social cognition as basic as eye contact. In this way, eye gaze represents a possible behavioral link in a complex relationship between genes, brain function, and personality.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:Combat stress can be followed by persistent emotional consequences. It is thought that these emotional consequences are caused in part by increased amygdala reactivity. It is also thought that amygdala hyper-reactivity results from decreased inhibition from portions of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in which activity is negatively correlated with activity in the amygdala. However, experimental support for these proposals has been inconsistent. METHODS:We showed movies of combat and civilian scenes during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) session to 50 veterans of recent combat. We collected skin conductance responses (SCRs) as measures of emotional arousal. We examined the relation of blood oxygenation-level dependent (BOLD) signal in the amygdala and ACC to symptom measures and to SCRs. RESULTS:Emotional arousal, as measured with SCR, was greater during the combat movie than during the civilian movie and did not depend on symptom severity. As expected, amygdala signal during the less-arousing movie increased with increasing symptom severity. Surprisingly, during the more-arousing movie amygdala signal decreased with increasing symptom severity. These differences led to the unexpected result that amygdala signal in highly symptomatic subjects was lower during the more-arousing movie than during the less-arousing movie. Also unexpectedly, we found no significant inverse correlation between any portions of the amygdala and ACC. Rather, signal throughout more than 80% of the ACC showed a strong positive correlation with signal throughout more than 90% of the amygdala. CONCLUSIONS:Amygdala reactivity can be tuned bi-directionally, either up or down, in the same person depending on the stimulus and the degree of post-traumatic symptoms. The exclusively positive correlations in BOLD activity between the amygdala and ACC contrast with findings that have been cited as evidence for inhibitory control of the amygdala by the ACC. The conceptualization of post-traumatic changes in neural function should be reconsidered.
Project description:Acetaminophen, an effective and popular over-the-counter pain reliever (e.g., the active ingredient in Tylenol), has recently been shown to blunt individuals' reactivity to a range of negative stimuli in addition to physical pain. Because accumulating research has shown that individuals' reactivity to both negative and positive stimuli can be influenced by a single factor (an idea known as differential susceptibility), we conducted two experiments testing whether acetaminophen blunted individuals' evaluations of and emotional reactions to both negative and positive images from the International Affective Picture System. Participants who took acetaminophen evaluated unpleasant stimuli less negatively and pleasant stimuli less positively, compared with participants who took a placebo. Participants in the acetaminophen condition also rated both negative and positive stimuli as less emotionally arousing than did participants in the placebo condition (Studies 1 and 2), whereas nonevaluative ratings (extent of color saturation in each image; Study 2) were not affected by drug condition. These findings suggest that acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on individuals' evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence.
Project description:Considerable evidence indicates that glucocorticoid hormones enhance the consolidation of long-term memories for emotionally arousing experiences but not that for less arousing or neutral information. However, previous studies have not determined the basis of such arousal-induced selectivity. Here we report the finding that endogenous noradrenergic activation of the basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) induced by emotional arousal is essential in enabling glucocorticoid memory enhancement. Corticosterone administered immediately after object recognition training enhanced 24-h memory of naïve male rats but not that of rats previously habituated to the training context in order to reduce novelty-induced emotional arousal. The beta-adrenoceptor antagonist propranolol administered either systemically or into the BLA blocked the corticosterone-induced memory enhancement. Further, in habituated rats, corticosterone activated BLA neurons, as assessed by phosphorylated cAMP response element binding (pCREB) immunoreactivity levels, and enhanced memory only when norepinephrine release was stimulated by administration of the alpha(2)-adrenoceptor antagonist yohimbine. These findings strongly suggest that synergistic actions of glucocorticoids and emotional arousal-induced noradrenergic activation of the BLA constitute a neural mechanism by which glucocorticoids may selectively enhance memory consolidation for emotionally arousing experiences.
Project description:Several recent studies have documented age-related changes in brain activity--less amygdala activity and higher prefrontal activity in response to emotional stimuli. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined whether aging also affects the maintenance of activity to emotional stimuli and whether maintenance differs by the valence (negative, neutral and positive) of the pictures. Younger participants had a larger volume of activity in the amygdala but less in the prefrontal cortex than the old. The old showed more habituation to highly arousing negative but not positive or neutral stimuli in prefrontal cortex as compared to younger participants. Thus prefrontal cortex activity indexes emotion in the elderly, but not the young. Amplified prefrontal activity suggests elderly increase cognitive control for negative, highly arousing emotional stimuli, but it is not maintained. Taken together, age-related increases in prefrontal activity and reduced amygdala activity may underlie observed affective changes in aging.
Project description:Borderline personality disorder (BPD) patients' hypersensitivity for emotionally relevant stimuli has been suggested be due to abnormal activity and connectivity in (para-)limbic and prefrontal brain regions during stimulus processing. The neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to modulate activity and functional connectivity in these brain regions, thereby optimizing the processing of emotional and neutral stimuli. To investigate whether oxytocin would be capable of attenuating BPD patients' hypersensitivity for such stimuli, we recorded brain activity and gaze behavior during the processing of complex scenes in 51 females with and 48 without BPD after intranasal application of either oxytocin or placebo. We found divergent effects of oxytocin on BPD and healthy control (HC) participants' (para-)limbic reactivity to emotional and neutral scenes: Oxytocin decreased amygdala and insula reactivity in BPD participants but increased it in HC participants, indicating an oxytocin-induced normalization of amygdala and insula activity during scene processing. In addition, oxytocin normalized the abnormal coupling between amygdala activity and gaze behavior across all scenes in BPD participants. Overall, these findings suggest that oxytocin may be capable of attenuating BPD patients' hypersensitivity for complex scenes, irrespective of their valence.
Project description:Emotional events gain special priority in how they are remembered, with emotionally arousing events typically recalled more vividly and with greater confidence than non-emotional events. In dementia, memory and emotion processing are affected to varying degrees, however, whether emotional enhancement of memory for complex ecologically-valid events is differentially affected across dementia syndromes remains unclear, with previous studies examining effects of emotion on simple visual recognition only. Here, we examined memory for an emotionally arousing short story and a closely matched, emotionally neutral story in behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) (n = 13) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) (n = 14), and contrasted their performance with healthy controls (n = 12). Multiple-choice recognition memory for specific details of the story was assessed after a 1-h delay. While AD and control groups showed enhanced memory for the emotional story, the bvFTD group recalled a similar number of details from the emotional and neutral stories. Voxel-based morphometry analyses revealed emotional enhancement of memory correlated with distinct brain regions in each patient group. In AD, emotional enhancement was associated with integrity of the bilateral hippocampus, parahippocampal gyri, temporal fusiform gyrus and frontal pole, regions typically implicated in memory processes. In contrast in bvFTD, integrity of emotion processing regions, including the orbitofrontal cortex, right amygdala and right insula, correlated with the extent emotion enhanced memory. Our results reveal that integrity of frontal and temporal regions determine the quality and nature of emotional memories. While emotional enhancement of memory is present in mild AD, in bvFTD emotion does not facilitate memory retrieval for complex realistic events. This attenuation of emotional enhancement is due to degradation of emotion processing regions, which may be important for modulating levels of arousal in response to emotional events in these patients.