Atypical Prefrontal-Amygdala Circuitry Following Childhood Exposure to Abuse: Links With Adolescent Psychopathology.
ABSTRACT: 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:OBJECTIVE:The strong associations between child maltreatment and psychopathology have generated interest in identifying neurodevelopmental processes that are disrupted following maltreatment. Previous research has focused largely on neural response to negative facial emotion. We determined whether child maltreatment was associated with neural responses during passive viewing of negative and positive emotional stimuli and effortful attempts to regulate emotional responses. METHOD:A total of 42 adolescents aged 13 to 19 years, half with exposure to physical and/or sexual abuse, participated. Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response was measured during passive viewing of negative and positive emotional stimuli and attempts to modulate emotional responses using cognitive reappraisal. RESULTS:Maltreated adolescents exhibited heightened response in multiple nodes of the salience network, including amygdala, putamen, and anterior insula, to negative relative to neutral stimuli. During attempts to decrease responses to negative stimuli relative to passive viewing, maltreatment was associated with greater recruitment of superior frontal gyrus, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and frontal pole; adolescents with and without maltreatment down-regulated amygdala response to a similar degree. No associations were observed between maltreatment and neural response to positive emotional stimuli during passive viewing or effortful regulation. CONCLUSION:Child maltreatment heightens the salience of negative emotional stimuli. Although maltreated adolescents modulate amygdala responses to negative cues to a degree similar to that of non-maltreated youths, they use regions involved in effortful control to a greater degree to do so, potentially because greater effort is required to modulate heightened amygdala responses. These findings are promising, given the centrality of cognitive restructuring in trauma-focused treatments for children.
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:<h4>Objective</h4>Emotion dysregulation has been suggested to be a potent risk factor for multiple psychiatric conditions. Altered amygdala-prefrontal cortex (PFC) connectivity has been consistently linked to emotion dysregulation. Recent data indicate that amygdala-PFC functional connectivity undergoes a prolonged period of development, with amygdala reactivity during early childhood potentially shaping this unfolding process. Little is known about the relationships between amygdala-PFC functional connectivity, amygdala reactivity, and emotion regulation during early childhood. This information is likely critical for understanding early emotion dysregulation as a transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology. The current study examined the relationships between amygdala functional connectivity, amygdala reactivity, and emotion regulation in preschoolers.<h4>Method</h4>A total of 66 medication-naive 4- to 6-year-olds participated in a study where resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) and parent-reported child emotion regulation ability data were collected. fMRI data collected during a face viewing task was also available for 24 children.<h4>Results</h4>Right amygdala-medial PFC (mPFC) functional connectivity was positively associated with child emotion regulation ability and negatively associated with child negative affect and right amygdala reactivity to facial expressions of emotion. Right amygdala-mPFC functional connectivity also statistically mediated the relationship between heightened right amygdala reactivity and elevated child negative affect.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Study findings suggest that amygdala-mPFC functional connectivity during early childhood, and its relationships with amygdala reactivity and emotion regulation during this highly sensitive developmental period, may play an important role in early emotional development. These results inform the neurodevelopmental biology of emotion regulation and its potential relationship with risk for psychopathology.
Project description:Childhood abuse confers risk for psychopathology and pathophysiology in midlife through intermediate pathways that remain unclear. Systemic inflammation was tested in the present study as one pathway that may link physical abuse in childhood to the adult functioning of corticolimbic brain circuits broadly implicated in risk for poor mental and physical health. Midlife adults (N?=?303; 30-51?years of age; 149 women) without psychiatric, immune, or cardiovascular diagnoses provided retrospective reports of childhood physical abuse. Functional connectivity between corticolimbic brain areas (amygdala, hippocampus, ventromedial prefrontal cortex [vmPFC], anterior cingulate cortex [ACC]) was measured at rest using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Circulating levels of interleukin(IL)-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine previously linked to childhood abuse and corticolimbic functionality, were measured via blood draw. Consistent with prior studies, retrospectively reported childhood physical abuse was associated positively with circulating IL-6, and negatively with connectivity between the amygdala and vmPFC. IL-6 was also associated negatively with several corticolimbic functional connections, including amygdala-vmPFC connectivity. Moreover, path analyses revealed an indirect effect of IL-6 that partially explained the association between childhood physical abuse and adult amygdala-vmPFC connectivity. Consistent with recent neurobiological models of early life influences on disease risk across the lifespan, associations between childhood physical abuse and adulthood corticolimbic circuit functionality may be partially explained by inflammatory processes.
Project description:Early life trauma exposure represents a potent risk factor for the development of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, deleterious consequences of trauma are exacerbated in youth living in impoverished, urban environments. A priori probability maps were used to examine resting-state functional connectivity (FC) of the amygdala in 21 trauma-exposed, and 21 age- and sex-matched urban children and adolescents (youth) without histories of trauma. Intrinsic FC analyses focused on amygdala-medial prefrontal circuitry, a key emotion regulatory pathway in the brain. We discovered reduced negative amygdala-subgenual cingulate connectivity in trauma-exposed youth. Differences between groups were also identified in anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate to amygdala connectivity. Overall, results suggest a model in which urban-dwelling trauma-exposed youth lack negative prefrontal to amygdala connectivity that may be critical for regulation of emotional responses. Functional changes in amygdala circuitry might reflect the biological embedding of stress reactivity in early life and mediate enhanced vulnerability to stress-related psychopathology.
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:While deficits in fear extinction recall have been suggested to underlie vulnerability to anxiety disorders in adolescents, the neurobiology of these deficits remain underexplored. Here we investigate the functional connectivity (FC) of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and dorsolateral PFC (dlPFC) underlying extinction recall in healthy adolescents, and assess associations between FC and state/trait anxiety. Adolescents (17) and adults (14, for comparison) completed a fear-learning paradigm involving extinction and extinction recall during a functional magnetic resonance imaging session, in which skin conductance response (SCR) was recorded. Psychophysiological interaction analyses revealed that during extinction recall there was significant negative connectivity between the vmPFC and amygdala in adults, but not adolescents. vmPFC-amygdala connectivity was positively correlated with SCR. Adolescents showed significant negative FC between the dlPFC and the left and right hippocampus, and the amygdala, which was positively correlated with state anxiety. Recall was also associated with negative connectivity between the dlPFC and thalamus, posterior cingulate cortex, fusiform gyrus, and pallidum in adolescents. These results demonstrate that fear extinction recall in healthy adolescents is associated with FC between prefrontal and limbic brain regions, and suggest that alterations in connectivity may be associated with vulnerability to anxiety in adolescence.
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 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:Extensive research has demonstrated that rs1360780, a common single nucleotide polymorphism within the FKBP5 gene, interacts with early-life stress in predicting psychopathology. Previous results suggest that carriers of the TT genotype of rs1360780 who were exposed to child abuse show differences in structure and functional activation of emotion-processing brain areas belonging to the salience network. Extending these findings on intermediate phenotypes of psychopathology, we examined if the interaction between rs1360780 and child abuse predicts resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) between the amygdala and other areas of the salience network. We analyzed data of young European adults from the general population (N = 774; mean age = 18.76 years) who took part in the IMAGEN study. In the absence of main effects of genotype and abuse, a significant interaction effect was observed for rsFC between the right centromedial amygdala and right posterior insula (p < .025, FWE-corrected), which was driven by stronger rsFC in TT allele carriers with a history of abuse. Our results suggest that the TT genotype of rs1360780 may render individuals with a history of abuse more vulnerable to functional changes in communication between brain areas processing emotions and bodily sensations, which could underlie or increase the risk for psychopathology.