Neural correlates of emotion acceptance vs worry or suppression in generalized anxiety disorder.
ABSTRACT: Recent emotion dysregulation models of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) propose chronic worry in GAD functions as a maladaptive attempt to regulate anxiety related to uncertain or unpredictable outcomes. Emotion acceptance is an adaptive emotion regulation strategy increasingly incorporated into newer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches to GAD to counter chronic worry. The current study explores the mechanisms of emotion acceptance as an alternate emotion regulation strategy to worry or emotion suppression using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Twenty-one female participants diagnosed with GAD followed counterbalanced instructions to regulate responses to personally relevant worry statements by engaging in either emotion acceptance, worry or emotion suppression. Emotion acceptance resulted in lower ratings of distress than worry and was associated with increased dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activation and increased ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC)-amygdala functional connectivity. In contrast, worry showed significantly greater distress ratings than acceptance or suppression and was associated with increased precuneus, VLPFC, amygdala and hippocampal activation. Suppression did not significantly differ from acceptance in distress ratings or amygdala recruitment, but resulted in significantly greater insula and VLPFC activation and decreased VLPFC-amygdala functional connectivity. Emotion acceptance closely aligned with activation and connectivity patterns reported in studies of contextual extinction learning and mindful awareness.
Project description:Mindfulness training aims to impact emotion regulation. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms can be successfully addressed through mindfulness-based interventions. This preliminary study is the first to investigate neural mechanisms of symptom improvements in GAD following mindfulness training. Furthermore, we compared brain activation between GAD patients and healthy participants at baseline. 26 patients with a current DSM-IV GAD diagnosis were randomized to an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR, N = 15) or a stress management education (SME, N = 11) active control program. 26 healthy participants were included for baseline comparisons. BOLD response was assessed with fMRI during affect labeling of angry and neutral facial expressions. At baseline, GAD patients showed higher amygdala activation than healthy participants in response to neutral, but not angry faces, suggesting that ambiguous stimuli reveal stronger reactivity in GAD patients. In patients, amygdala activation in response to neutral faces decreased following both interventions. BOLD response in ventrolateral prefrontal regions (VLPFC) showed greater increase in MBSR than SME participants. Functional connectivity between amygdala and PFC regions increased significantly pre- to post-intervention within the MBSR, but not SME group. Both, change in VLPFC activation and amygdala-prefrontal connectivity were correlated with change in Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) scores, suggesting clinical relevance of these changes. Amygdala-prefrontal connectivity turned from negative coupling (typically seen in down-regulation of emotions), to positive coupling; potentially suggesting a unique mechanism of mindfulness. Findings suggest that in GAD, mindfulness training leads to changes in fronto-limbic areas crucial for the regulation of emotion; these changes correspond with reported symptom improvements.
Project description:Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry, autonomic dysregulation and functional amygdala dysconnectivity, yet these illness markers have rarely been considered together, nor their interrelationship tested longitudinally. We hypothesized that an individual's capacity for emotion regulation predicts longer-term changes in amygdala functional connectivity, supporting the modification of GAD core symptoms. Sixteen patients with GAD (14 women) and individually matched controls were studied at two time points separated by 1 year. Resting-state fMRI data and concurrent measurement of vagally mediated heart rate variability were obtained before and after the induction of perseverative cognition. A greater rise in levels of worry following the induction predicted a stronger reduction in connectivity between right amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and enhanced coupling between left amygdala and ventral tegmental area at follow-up. Similarly, amplified physiological responses to the induction predicted increased connectivity between right amygdala and thalamus. Longitudinal shifts in a distinct set of functional connectivity scores were associated with concomitant changes in GAD symptomatology over the course of the year. Results highlight the prognostic value of indices of emotional dysregulation and emphasize the integral role of the amygdala as a critical hub in functional neural circuitry underlying the progression of GAD symptomatology.
Project description:Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized at a neurobiological level by disrupted activity in emotion regulation neural circuitry. Previous work has demonstrated amygdala hyperreactivity and disrupted prefrontal responses to social cues in individuals with SAD (Kim et al., 2011). While exposure-based psychological treatments effectively reduce SAD symptoms, not all individuals respond to treatment. Better understanding of the neural mechanisms involved offers the potential to improve treatment efficacy. In this study, we investigated functional connectivity in emotion regulation neural circuitry in a randomized controlled treatment trial for SAD. Participants with SAD underwent fMRI scanning while performing an implicit emotion regulation task prior to treatment (n=62). Following 12 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, or wait-list, participants completed a second scan (n=42). Psychophysiological interaction analyses using amygdala seed regions demonstrated differences between SAD and healthy control participants (HC; n=16) in right amygdala-vmPFC connectivity. SAD participants demonstrated more negative amygdala-to-vmPFC connectivity, compared to HC participants, an effect that was correlated with SAD symptom severity. Post-treatment symptom reduction was correlated with altered amygdala-to-vm/vlPFC connectivity, independent of treatment type. Greater symptom reduction was associated with more negative amygdala-to-vm/vlPFC connectivity. These findings suggest that effective psychological treatment for SAD enhances amygdala-prefrontal functional connectivity.
Project description:Emotion processing deficits are prominent in schizophrenia and exist prior to the onset of overt psychosis. However, developmental trajectories of neural circuitry subserving emotion regulation and the role that they may play in illness onset have not yet been examined in patients at risk for psychosis. The present study employed a cross-sectional analysis to examine age-related functional activation in amygdala and prefrontal cortex, as well as functional connectivity between these regions, in adolescents at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis relative to typically developing adolescents. Participants (n=34) performed an emotion processing fMRI task, including emotion labeling, emotion matching, and non-emotional control conditions. Regression analyses were used to predict activation in the amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) based on age, group, sex, and the interaction of age by group. CHR adolescents exhibited altered age-related variation in amygdala and vlPFC activation, relative to controls. Controls displayed decreased amygdala and increased vlPFC activation with age, while patients exhibited the opposite pattern (increased amygdala and decreased vlPFC activation), suggesting a failure of prefrontal cortex to regulate amygdala reactivity. Moreover, a psychophysiological interaction analysis revealed decreased amygdala-prefrontal functional connectivity among CHR adolescents, consistent with disrupted brain connectivity as a vulnerability factor in schizophrenia. These results suggest that the at-risk syndrome is marked by abnormal development and functional connectivity of neural systems subserving emotion regulation. Longitudinal data are needed to confirm aberrant developmental trajectories intra-individually and to examine whether these abnormalities are predictive of conversion to psychosis, and of later deficits in socioemotional functioning.
Project description:This study examined whether adolescents with pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) have abnormal regional functional connectivity in distributed brain networks during an affective working memory task. Adolescents with PBD (n=41) and healthy controls (HC; n=16) performed a two-back functional magnetic resonance imaging working memory task with blocks of either angry or neutral faces. Independent component analysis methodology identified two temporally independent and functionally connected brain networks that showed differential functional connectivity in PBD and HC. Within a network for "affect evaluation and regulation," PBD showed decreased functional connectivity relative to HC in regions involved in emotion processing such as the right amygdala, and in emotion regulation regions such as the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), while functional connectivity was increased in emotion evaluation regions such as the bilateral medial PFC. Furthermore, in an "Affective Working Memory Network," PBD exhibited greater connectivity relative to HC in left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC), caudate, and right VLPFC; and simultaneously reduced connectivity in emotion processing regions, such as the right amygdala, bilateral temporal regions, and the junction of DLPFC/VLPFC, which interfaces affective and cognitive processes. Dysfunction in network engagement in PBD patients illustrates that they are expending greater effort in face emotion evaluation, while being less able to engage affect regulation regions.
Project description:Young adults often experience psychological distress and poor quality of life (QoL). Yet, there are no objective neural markers to accurately guide interventions to help improve these measures. We thus aimed to identify directional relationships between frontoamygdala emotional regulation circuitry activity during emotion processing, personality traits, and symptoms associated with psychological distress, and QoL. One hundred twenty 18-25-year olds, n=51 psychologically distressed and n=69 healthy individuals, completed a face emotion-processing task during functional magnetic resonance imaging, clinical and behavioral measures, and QoL assessment. Penalized regression, accounting for large numbers of independent variables, showed that increased state and trait anxiety, cohort and measures of general and anhedonic depression severity predicted poorer QoL (all exponents>0.87). Only state and trait anxiety predicted emotion processing-related frontoamygdala activity (all exponents=1.00). State and trait anxiety fully mediated the relationship between amygdala activity and QoL (P-value increased from 0.001 to 0.29: left amygdala, and from 0.003 to 0.94: right amygdala). State anxiety fully mediated the relationship between left ventrolateral prefrontal cortical (vlPFC) activity and QoL (P-value increased from 0.01 to 0.18). Testing an alternative mediational pathway showed that the relationship between state and trait anxiety and QoL was not mediated by amygdala or left vlPFC activity. We thereby identify specific, directional relationships linking amygdala and left vlPFC activity, state and trait anxiety, and poor QoL across different diagnoses. Our findings highlight roles of amygdala and left vlPFC activity as neural predictors of anxiety and poor QoL, and as potentially important targets for novel interventions to reduce anxiety and, in turn, improve QoL in young adults.
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:BACKGROUND:Although psychological treatments for social anxiety disorder (SAD) can be highly effective, many individuals do not respond to treatment. Identifying factors associated with improved outcomes can facilitate individualized treatment choices. We investigated whether patterns of neural connectivity predicted treatment responses and whether treatment type, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), moderated this effect. METHODS:Participants with SAD (n?=?34) underwent fMRI prior to treatment and completed implicit and explicit emotion regulation tasks. Neural connectivity measures were estimates of amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity. Treatment responder status was defined using the 'clinically significant change index' (Loerinc et al., 2015). RESULTS:Right amygdala-right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex connectivity during implicit emotion regulation was a significant predictor of treatment response (OR?=?9.01, 95% CI?=?1.77, 46.0, p?=?.008). Stronger inverse connectivity was associated with greater likelihood of treatment response. There were no significant neural moderators of treatment response to CBT versus ACT. LIMITATIONS:The primary limitation of this work was the small sample size which restricted the power to detect significant moderation effects, and results should be interpreted as preliminary. CONCLUSIONS:Amygdala-vlPFC connectivity during affect labeling predicted treatment responder status following CBT or ACT for social anxiety disorder. This suggests that the functioning of neural circuitry supporting emotion regulation capacities may be a 'gateway' to receiving benefit from psychological treatments. Future work should aim to replicate this effect in a larger sample and consider methods for enhancing functional connectivity within this circuitry as a potential treatment adjunct.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Disruptive behaviors are prevalent in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and often cause substantial impairments. However, the underlying neural mechanisms of disruptive behaviors remain poorly understood in ASD. In children without ASD, disruptive behavior is associated with amygdala hyperactivity and reduced connectivity with the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC). This study examined amygdala reactivity and connectivity in children with ASD with and without co-occurring disruptive behavior disorders. We also investigated differential contributions of externalizing behaviors and callous-unemotional traits to variance in amygdala connectivity and reactivity. METHODS:This cross-sectional study involved behavioral assessments and neuroimaging in three groups of children 8 to 16 years of age: 18 children had ASD and disruptive behavior, 20 children had ASD without disruptive behavior, and 19 children were typically developing control participants matched for age, gender, and IQ. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, participants completed an emotion perception task of fearful versus calm faces. Task-specific changes in amygdala reactivity and connectivity were examined using whole-brain, psychophysiological interaction, and multiple regression analyses. RESULTS:Children with ASD and disruptive behavior showed reduced amygdala-vlPFC connectivity compared with children with ASD without disruptive behavior. Externalizing behaviors and callous-unemotional traits were associated with amygdala reactivity to fearful faces in children with ASD after controlling for suppressor effects. CONCLUSIONS:Reduced amygdala-vlPFC connectivity during fear processing may differentiate children with ASD and disruptive behavior from children with ASD without disruptive behavior. The presence of callous-unemotional traits may have implications for identifying differential patterns of amygdala activity associated with increased risk of aggression in ASD. These findings suggest a neural mechanism of emotion dysregulation associated with disruptive behavior in children with ASD.
Project description:The ability to regulate emotion is crucial to promote well-being. Evidence suggests that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and adjacent anterior cingulate (ACC) modulate amygdala activity during emotion regulation. Yet less is known about whether the amygdala-mPFC circuit is linked with regulation of the autonomic nervous system and whether the relationship differs across the adult lifespan. The current study tested the hypothesis that heart rate variability (HRV) reflects the strength of mPFC-amygdala interaction across younger and older adults. We recorded participants' heart rates at baseline and examined whether baseline HRV was associated with amygdala-mPFC functional connectivity during rest. We found that higher HRV was associated with stronger functional connectivity between the amygdala and the mPFC during rest across younger and older adults. In addition to this age-invariant pattern, there was an age-related change, such that greater HRV was linked with stronger functional connectivity between amygdala and ventrolateral PFC (vlPFC) in younger than in older adults. These results are in line with past evidence that vlPFC is involved in emotion regulation especially in younger adults. Taken together, our results support the neurovisceral integration model and suggest that higher heart rate variability is associated with neural mechanisms that support successful emotional regulation across the adult lifespan.