Prefrontal behavior and activity in humans are heritable. Studies in animals demonstrate an interaction between dopamine D2 receptors and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on prefrontal behavior but evidence in humans is weak. Therefore, we hypothesize that genetic variation regulating dopamine D2 and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor signaling impact prefrontal cortex activity and related cognition. To test this hypothesis in humans, we explored the interaction between functional genetic variants in the D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560) and in the nicotinic receptor α5 gene (CHRNA5, rs16969968) on both dorsolateral prefrontal cortex mediated behavior and physiology during working memory and on prefrontal gray matter volume.
A large sample of healthy subjects was compared for genotypic differences for DRD2 rs1076560 (G>T) and CHNRA5 rs16969968 (G>A) on prefrontal phenotypes, including cognitive performance at the N-Back task, prefrontal physiology with BOLD fMRI during performance of the 2-Back working memory task, and prefrontal morphometry with structural MRI.
We found that DRD2 rs1076560 and CHNRA5 rs16969968 interact to modulate cognitive function, prefrontal physiology during working memory, and prefrontal gray matter volume. More specifically, CHRNA5-AA/DRD2-GT subjects had greater behavioral performance, more efficient prefrontal cortex activity at 2Back working memory task, and greater prefrontal gray matter volume than the other genotype groups.
The present data extend previous studies in animals and enhance our understanding of dopamine and acetylcholine signaling in the human prefrontal cortex, demonstrating interactions elicited by working memory that are modulated by genetic variants in DRD2 and CHRNA5.
“Schizotypy” is a latent organization of personality related to the genetic risk for schizophrenia. Some evidence suggests that schizophrenia and schizotypy share some biological features, including a link to dopaminergic D2 receptor signaling. A polymorphism in the D2 gene (DRD2 rs1076560, guanine > thymine (G > T)) has been associated with the D2 short/long isoform expression ratio, as well as striatal dopamine signaling and prefrontal cortical activity during different cognitive operations, which are measures that are altered in patients with schizophrenia. Our aim is to determine the association of schizotypy scores with the DRD2 rs1076560 genotype in healthy individuals and their interaction with prefrontal activity during attention and D2 striatal signaling. A total of 83 healthy subjects were genotyped for DRD2 rs1076560 and completed the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ). Twenty-six participants underwent SPECT with [123I]IBZM D2 receptor radiotracer, while 68 performed an attentional control task during fMRI. We found that rs1076560 GT subjects had greater SPQ scores than GG individuals. Moreover, the interaction between schizotypy and the GT genotype predicted prefrontal activity and related attentional behavior, as well as striatal binding of IBZM. No interaction was found in GG individuals. These results suggest that rs1076560 GT healthy individuals are prone to higher levels of schizotypy, and that the interaction between rs1076560 and schizotypy scores modulates phenotypes related to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, such as prefrontal activity and striatal dopamine signaling. These results provide systems-level qualitative evidence for mapping the construct of schizotypy in healthy individuals onto the schizophrenia continuum.
schizotypy; dopamine; DRD2; fMRI; SPECT
Dopamine (DA) neurotransmission through D2 receptors (DRD2) has been implicated in the regulation of reward processing, cognition and the effects of drugs of abuse, and also has significant effects in responses to stressors and salient aversive stimuli. An examination of the influence of genetic variation across multiple psychophysical measures therefore appears critical to understand the neurobiology of DA-modulated complex personality traits and psychiatric illnesses. To examine interindividual variation in the function of DRD2 modulated mechanisms in healthy humans, we used a haplotype-based and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) investigation. Their effects were interrogated with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during reward and emotional processing. We found that a haplotype block composed by two SNPs, rs4274224 and rs4581480, affected the hemodynamic responses of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during reward expectation and the subgenual anterior cingulate cortices (sgACC) during implicit emotional processing. Exploratory analysis within the significant haplotype block revealed the same functional effects only for the SNP rs4274224. Further analysis on rs4274224 using functional connectivity and positron emission tomography (PET) measures of DA D2/3 receptor mediated neurotransmission confirmed a gene effect on the functional connectivity of the DLPFC during reward anticipation and subcortical stress induced dopamine release. At a phenotypic trait level, significant effects of genotype were obtained for the NEO PI-R “Openness to Experience” and further correlated with neuroimaging data. Overall, these results show significant neurobiological effects of genotype variation in DRD2 on multiple functional domains, such as emotional, stress and reward processing. As such, it contributes to normal variation and potentially to vulnerability to psychopathology associated with those functions, such as risk for mood and substance use disorders.
imaging; dopamine; DLPFC; reward; emotion
The dopamine receptor D2 (encoded by DRD2) is implicated in susceptibility to mental disorders and cocaine abuse, but mechanisms responsible for this relationship remain uncertain. DRD2 mRNA exists in two main splice isoforms with distinct functions: D2 long (D2L) and D2 short (D2S, lacking exon 6), expressed mainly postsynaptically and presynaptically, respectively. Two intronic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs rs2283265 (intron 5) and rs1076560 (intron 6)) in high linkage disequilibrium (LD) with each other have been reported to alter D2S/D2L splicing and several behavioral traits in human subjects, such as memory processing. To assess the role of DRD2 variants in cocaine abuse, we measured levels of D2S and D2L mRNA in human brain autopsy tissues (prefrontal cortex and putamen) obtained from cocaine abusers and controls, and genotyped a panel of DRD2 SNPs (119 abusers and 95 controls). Robust effects of rs2283265 and rs1076560 on reducing formation of D2S relative to D2L were confirmed. The minor alleles of rs2283265/rs1076560 were considerably more frequent in Caucasians (18%) compared with African Americans (7%). Also, in Caucasians, rs2283265/rs1076560 minor alleles were significantly overrepresented in cocaine abusers compared with controls (rs2283265: 25 to 9%, respectively; p=0.001; OR=3.4 (1.7–7.1)). Several SNPs previously implicated in diverse clinical association studies are in high LD with rs2283265/rs1076560 and could have served as surrogate markers. Our results confirm the role of rs2283265/rs1076560 in D2 alternative splicing and support a strong role in susceptibility to cocaine abuse.
alternative splicing; cocaine; dopamine; DRD2; D2S; human; addiction and substance abuse; dopamine; neurogenetics; psychostimulants; drd2; d2s; human; alternative splicing; cocaine
The default mode network (DMN) comprises a set of brain regions with “increased” activity during rest relative to cognitive processing. Activity in the DMN is associated with functional connections with the striatum and dopamine (DA) levels in this brain region. A functional single-nucleotide polymorphism within the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2, rs1076560 G > T) shifts splicing of the 2 D2 isoforms, D2 short and D2 long, and has been associated with striatal DA signaling as well as with cognitive processing. However, the effects of this polymorphism on DMN have not been explored. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of rs1076560 on DMN and striatal connectivity and on their relationship with striatal DA signaling. Twenty-eight subjects genotyped for rs1076560 underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a working memory task and 123 55 I-Fluoropropyl-2-beta-carbomethoxy-3-beta(4-iodophenyl) nortropan Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography ([123I]-FP-CIT SPECT) imaging (a measure of dopamine transporter [DAT] binding). Spatial group-independent component (IC) analysis was used to identify DMN and striatal ICs. Within the anterior DMN IC, GG subjects had relatively greater connectivity in medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which was directly correlated with striatal DAT binding. Within the posterior DMN IC, GG subjects had reduced connectivity in posterior cingulate relative to T carriers. Additionally, rs1076560 genotype predicted connectivity differences within a striatal network, and these changes were correlated with connectivity in MPFC and posterior cingulate within the DMN. These results suggest that genetically determined D2 receptor signaling is associated with DMN connectivity and that these changes are correlated with striatal function and presynaptic DA signaling.
DRD2; dopamine; default mode network; functional magnetic resonance imaging; single-photon emission computerized tomography
Dopamine modulation of neuronal activity during memory tasks identifies a non-linear inverted-U shaped function. Both the dopamine transporter (DAT) and dopamine D2 receptors (encoded by DRD2) critically regulate dopamine signaling in the striatum and in prefrontal cortex during memory. Moreover, in vitro studies have demonstrated that DAT and D2 proteins reciprocally regulate each other presynaptically. Therefore, we have evaluated the genetic interaction between a DRD2 polymorphism (rs1076560) causing reduced presynaptic D2 receptor expression and the DAT 3’-VNTR variant (affecting DAT expression) in a large sample of healthy subjects undergoing BOLD - fMRI during memory tasks and structural MRI. Results indicated a significant DRD2/DAT interaction in prefrontal cortex and striatum BOLD activity during both working memory and encoding of recognition memory. The differential effect on BOLD activity of the DAT variant was mostly manifest in the context of the DRD2 allele associated with lower presynaptic expression. Similar results were also evident for gray matter volume in caudate. These interactions describe a non-linear relationship between compound genotypes and brain activity or gray matter volume. Complementary data from striatal protein extracts from wild-type and D2 knock-out animals (D2R−/−) indicate that DAT and D2 proteins interact in vivo. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the interaction between genetic variants in DRD2 and DAT critically modulates the non-linear relationship between dopamine and neuronal activity during memory processing.
working memory; Recognition Memory; FMRI; Dopamine; Transport; D2; Receptor
Variation of the gene coding for D2 receptors (DRD2) has been associated with risk for schizophrenia and with working memory deficits. A functional intronic SNP (rs1076560) predicts relative expression of the two D2 receptors isoforms, D2S (mainly pre-synaptic) and D2L (mainly post-synaptic). However, the effect of functional genetic variation of DRD2 on striatal dopamine D2 signaling and on its correlation with prefrontal activity during working memory in humans is not known.
Thirty-seven healthy subjects were genotyped for rs1076560 (G>T) and underwent SPECT with [123I]IBZM (which binds primarily to post-synaptic D2 receptors) and with [123I]FP-CIT (which binds to pre-synaptic dopamine transporters, whose activity and density is also regulated by pre-synaptic D2 receptors), as well as BOLD fMRI during N-Back working memory.
Subjects carrying the T allele (previously associated with reduced D2S expression) had striatal reductions of [123I]IBZM and of [123I]FP-CIT binding. DRD2 genotype also differentially predicted the correlation between striatal dopamine D2 signaling (as identified with factor analysis of the two radiotracers) and activity of the prefrontal cortex during working memory as measured with BOLD fMRI, which was positive in GG subjects and negative in GT.
Our results demonstrate that this functional SNP within DRD2 predicts striatal binding of the two radiotracers to dopamine transporters and D2 receptors as well as the correlation between striatal D2 signaling with prefrontal cortex activity during performance of a working memory task. These data are consistent with the possibility that the balance of excitatory/inhibitory modulation of striatal neurons may also affect striatal outputs in relationship with prefrontal activity during working memory performance within the cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical pathway.
Research on emotional processing in schizophrenia suggests relatively intact subjective responses to affective stimuli “in the moment.” However, neuroimaging evidence suggests diminished activation in brain regions associated with emotional processing in schizophrenia. We asked whether given a more vulnerable cognitive system in schizophrenia, individuals with this disorder would show increased or decreased modulation of working memory (WM) as a function of the emotional content of stimuli compared with healthy control subjects. In addition, we examined whether higher anhedonia levels were associated with a diminished impact of emotion on behavioral and brain activation responses. In the present study, 38 individuals with schizophrenia and 32 healthy individuals completed blocks of a 2-back WM task in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning session. Blocks contained faces displaying either only neutral stimuli or neutral and emotional stimuli (happy or fearful faces), randomly intermixed and occurring both as targets and non-targets. Both groups showed higher accuracy but slower reaction time for negative compared to neutral stimuli. Individuals with schizophrenia showed intact amygdala activity in response to emotionally evocative stimuli, but demonstrated altered dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and hippocampal activity while performing an emotionally loaded WM-task. Higher levels of social anhedonia were associated with diminished amygdala responses to emotional stimuli and increased DLPFC activity in individuals with schizophrenia. Emotional arousal may challenge dorsal-frontal control systems, which may have both beneficial and detrimental influences. Our findings suggest that disturbances in emotional processing in schizophrenia relate to alterations in emotion-cognition interactions rather than to the perception and subjective experience of emotion per se.
emotion-cognition interaction; hippocampus; dorsolateral PFC; amygdala; anhedonia; fMRI
Background: Maternal care (MC) and dopamine modulate brain activity during emotion processing in inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), striatum and amygdala. Reuptake of dopamine from the synapse is performed by the dopamine transporter (DAT), whose abundance is predicted by variation in its gene (DAT 3′VNTR; 10 > 9-repeat alleles). Here, we investigated the interaction between perceived MC and DAT 3′VNTR genotype on brain activity during processing of aversive facial emotional stimuli.
Methods: Sixty-one healthy subjects were genotyped for DAT 3′VNTR and categorized in low and high MC individuals. They underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a task requiring gender discrimination of facial stimuli with angry, fearful or neutral expressions.
Results: An interaction between facial expression, DAT genotype and MC was found in left IFG, such that low MC and homozygosity for the 10-repeat allele are associated with greater activity during processing of fearful faces. This greater activity was also inversely correlated with a measure of emotion control as scored with the Big Five Questionnaire. Moreover, MC and DAT genotype described a double dissociation on functional connectivity between IFG and amygdala.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that perceived early parental bonding may interact with DAT 3′VNTR genotype in modulating brain activity during emotionally relevant inputs.
emotion; dopamine; maternal care; fMRI; amygdala; inferior frontal gyrus
Working memory is critically involved in ignoring emotional distraction while maintaining goal-directed behavior. Antagonistic interactions between brain regions implicated in emotion processing, e.g., amygdala, and brain regions involved in cognitive control, e.g., dorsolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dlPFC, dmPFC), may play an important role in coping with emotional distraction. We previously reported prolonged reaction times associated with amygdala hyperreactivity during emotional distraction in interpersonally traumatized borderline personality disorder (BPD) patients compared to healthy controls (HC): Participants performed a working memory task, while neutral versus negative distractors (interpersonal scenes from the International Affective Picture System) were presented. Here, we re-analyzed data from this study using psychophysiological interaction analysis. The bilateral amygdala and bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) were defined as seed regions of interest. Whole-brain regression analyses with reaction times and self-reported increase of dissociation were performed. During emotional distraction, reduced amygdala connectivity with clusters in the left dorsolateral and ventrolateral PFC was observed in the whole group. Compared to HC, BPD patients showed a stronger coupling of both seeds with a cluster in the right dmPFC and stronger positive amygdala connectivity with bilateral (para)hippocampus. Patients further demonstrated stronger positive dACC connectivity with left posterior cingulate, insula, and frontoparietal regions during emotional distraction. Reaction times positively predicted amygdala connectivity with right dmPFC and (para)hippocampus, while dissociation positively predicted amygdala connectivity with right ACC during emotional distraction in patients. Our findings suggest increased attention to task-irrelevant (emotional) social information during a working memory task in interpersonally traumatized patients with BPD.
amygdala; anterior cingulate cortex; borderline personality disorder; emotional distraction; emotional working memory; functional connectivity; interpersonal trauma; psychophysiological interactions
Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in pediatric bipolar disorder (BD) have reported greater amygdala and less dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activation to facial expressions compared to healthy controls. The current study investigates whether these differences are associated with the early or late phase of activation, suggesting different temporal characteristics of brain responses.
Twenty euthymic adolescents with familial BD (14 male) and twenty-one healthy control subjects (13 male) underwent fMRI scanning during presentation of happy, sad, and neutral facial expressions. Whole brain voxel-wise analyses were conducted in SPM5, using a 3-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with factors group (BD and healthy control [HC]), facial expression (happy, sad, and neutral versus scrambled), and phase (early and late, corresponding to the first and second half of each block of faces).
There were no significant group differences in task performance, age, gender, or IQ. Significant activation from the Main Effect of Group included greater DLPFC activation in the HC group, and greater amygdala/hippocampal activation in the BD group. The interaction of Group X Phase identified clusters in the superior temporal sulcus/insula and visual cortex, where activation increased from the early to late phase of the block for the BD but not the HC group.
These findings are consistent with previous studies that suggest deficient prefrontal cortex regulation of heightened amygdala response to emotional stimuli in pediatric BD. Increasing activation over time in superior temporal and visual cortices suggests difficulty processing or disengaging attention from emotional faces in BD.
bipolar; fMRI; pediatric; amygdala
Genetic variants in GPR85 (SREB2: rs56080411 and rs56039557) have been associated with
risk for schizophrenia. Here, we test the hypothesis that these variants impact on brain
function in normal subjects, measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
paradigms that target regions with greatest SREB2 expression (hippocampal formation and
amygdaloid complex). During a facial emotion recognition paradigm, a significant
interaction of rs56080411 genotype by sex was found in the left amygdaloid complex (male
risk allele carriers showed less activation than male homozygotes for the non-risk allele,
while females showed the opposite pattern). During aversive encoding of an emotional
memory paradigm, we found that risk allele carriers for rs56080411 had greater activation
in the right inferior frontal gyrus. Trends in the same direction were present for
rs56039557 in the right occipital cortex and right fusiform gyrus. During a working memory
paradigm, a significant sex-by-genotype interaction was found with male risk allele
carriers of rs56080411 having inefficient activation within the left dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), compared with same sex non-risk carriers, while females
revealed an opposite pattern, despite similar levels of performance. These data suggest
that risk-associated variants in SREB2 are associated with phenotypes similar to those
found in patients with schizophrenia in the DLPFC and the amygdala of males, while the
pattern is opposite in females. The findings in females and during the emotional memory
paradigm are consistent with modulation by SREB2 of brain circuitries implicated in mood
regulation and may be relevant to neuropsychiatric conditions other than
emotion; hippocampal formation; amygdala; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; amygdala; biological psychiatry; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; emotion; hippocampal formation; imaging; clinical or preclinical; mood/anxiety/stress disorders; schizophrenia/antipsychotics; single-nucleotide polymorphisms
In classic Stroop paradigms, increasing the proportion of control-demanding incongruent trials results in strategic adjustments in behavior and implementation of cognitive control processes. We manipulated expectancy for incongruent trials in an emotional facial Stroop task to investigate the behavioral and neural effects of proportion manipulation in a cognitively demanding task with emotional stimuli. Subjects performed a high expectancy (HE) task (65% incongruent trials) and a low expectancy (LE) task (35% incongruent trials) during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As in standard Stroop tasks, behavioral interference was reduced in the emotional facial Stroop HE task compared to the LE task. Functional MRI data revealed a switch in cognitive control strategy, from a reactive, event-related activation of a medial and lateral cognitive control network and right amygdala in the LE task to a proactive, sustained activation of right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in the HE task. Higher trait anxiety was associated with impairment (slower response time and decreased accuracy) as well as reduced activity in left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior insula, and orbitofrontal cortex in the HE task on high conflict trials with task-irrelevant emotional information, suggesting that individual differences in anxiety may be associated with expectancy-related strategic control adjustments, particularly when emotional stimuli must be ignored.
amygdala; anterior cingulate cortex; conflict monitoring; fMRI; prefrontal cortex; sustained and transient control
Emotional events are usually better remembered than neutral ones. This effect is mediated in part by a modulation of the hippocampus by the amygdala. Sleep plays a role in the consolidation of declarative memory. We examined the impact of sleep and lack of sleep on the consolidation of emotional (negative and positive) memories at the macroscopic systems level. Using functional MRI (fMRI), we compared the neural correlates of successful recollection by humans of emotional and neutral stimuli, 72 h after encoding, with or without total sleep deprivation during the first post-encoding night. In contrast to recollection of neutral and positive stimuli, which was deteriorated by sleep deprivation, similar recollection levels were achieved for negative stimuli in both groups. Successful recollection of emotional stimuli elicited larger responses in the hippocampus and various cortical areas, including the medial prefrontal cortex, in the sleep group than in the sleep deprived group. This effect was consistent across subjects for negative items but depended linearly on individual memory performance for positive items. In addition, the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex were functionally more connected during recollection of either negative or positive than neutral items, and more so in sleeping than in sleep-deprived subjects. In the sleep-deprived group, recollection of negative items elicited larger responses in the amygdala and an occipital area than in the sleep group. In contrast, no such difference in brain responses between groups was associated with recollection of positive stimuli. The results suggest that the emotional significance of memories influences their sleep-dependent systems-level consolidation. The recruitment of hippocampo-neocortical networks during recollection is enhanced after sleep and is hindered by sleep deprivation. After sleep deprivation, recollection of negative, potentially dangerous, memories recruits an alternate amygdalo-cortical network, which would keep track of emotional information despite sleep deprivation.
Declarative memories, which can be consciously and verbally retrieved, are initially critically dependent on the hippocampus. However, reliable retrieval of long-term memory depends on a process of consolidation, which partly occurs during sleep, when memories are thought to be progressively transferred to long-term cortical stores. Because people tend to remember emotional memories better than neutral ones, we wondered whether the emotional significance of a memory would enhance its consolidation in a sleep-dependent manner. During a first session, participants viewed pictures with neutral and emotional content without realizing that their memory of the pictures and their content would be tested later (called incidental encoding). Three days later, during a functional MRI scanning session, subjects indicated whether they recognized previously viewed and new pictures. Half of the subjects were totally sleep deprived during the first post-encoding night, but all subjects slept as usual during the second and third post-encoding nights. We show here that the recollection of emotional stimuli elicited larger responses in the hippocampus and various cortical areas in the well-rested group than in the sleep-deprived group, suggesting that emotional significance boosts memory consolidation of the information during sleep. Interestingly, in sleep-deprived subjects, recollection of negative items recruited another network including the amygdala, as if an alternate consolidation process allowed them to keep track of negative, potentially dangerous, information despite the cognitive aftermath of sleep deprivation.
A new fMRI study reveals that emotional memories are consolidated by different brain networks in humans who receive a normal amount of sleep, compared with those who are sleep deprived.
Recent neuroimaging work suggests that increased amygdala responses to emotional stimuli and dysfunction within regions mediating top down attentional control (dorsomedial frontal, lateral frontal and parietal cortices) may be associated with the emergence of anxiety disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This report examines amygdala responsiveness to emotional stimuli and the recruitment of top down attention systems as a function of task demands in a population of U.S. military service members who had recently returned from combat deployment in Afghanistan/Iraq. Given current interest in dimensional aspects of pathophysiology, it is worthwhile examining patients who, while not meeting full PTSD criteria, show clinically significant functional impairment.
Fifty-seven participants with sub-threshold levels of PTSD symptoms completed the affective Stroop task while undergoing fMRI. Participants with PTSD or depression at baseline were excluded.
Greater PTSD symptom severity scores were associated with increased amygdala activation to emotional, particularly positive, stimuli relative to neutral stimuli. Furthermore, greater PTSD symptom severity was associated with increased superior/middle frontal cortex response during task conditions relative to passive viewing conditions. In addition, greater PTSD symptom severity scores were associated with: (i) increased activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal, lateral frontal, inferior parietal cortices and dorsomedial frontal cortex/dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dmFC/dACC) in response to emotional relative to neutral stimuli; and (ii) increased functional connectivity during emotional trials, particularly positive trials, relative to neutral trials between the right amygdala and dmFC/dACC, left caudate/anterior insula cortex, right lentiform nucleus/caudate, bilateral inferior parietal cortex and left middle temporal cortex.
We suggest that these data may reflect two phenomena associated with increased PTSD symptomatology in combat-exposed, but PTSD negative, armed services members. First, these data indicate increased emotional responsiveness by: (i) the positive relationship between PTSD symptom severity and amygdala responsiveness to emotional relative to neutral stimuli; (ii) greater BOLD response as a function of PTSD symptom severity in regions implicated in emotion (striatum) and representation (occipital and temporal cortices) during emotional relative to neutral conditions; and (iii) increased connectivity between the amygdala and regions implicated in emotion (insula/caudate) and representation (middle temporal cortex) as a function of PTSD symptom severity during emotional relative to neutral trials. Second, these data indicate a greater need for the recruitment of regions implicated in top down attention as indicated by (i) greater BOLD response in superior/middle frontal gyrus as a function of PTSD symptom severity in task relative to view conditions; (ii) greater BOLD response in dmFC/dACC, lateral frontal and inferior parietal cortices as a function of PTSD symptom severity in emotional relative to neutral conditions and (iii) greater functional connectivity between the amygdala and inferior parietal cortex as a function of PTSD symptom severity during emotional relative to neutral conditions.
•Greater PTSD symptoms associated with increased amygdala activation to emotional stimuli•PTSD symptoms associated with greater top down attention response in task and emotion conditions•PTSD symptoms were associated with slower reaction times.•Increased top down attention recruitment may compensate for heightened emotional responses.
Post-traumatic stress disorder; Emotion attention; Amygdala; Top down attention
Emotional information is frequently processed below the level of consciousness, where subcortical regions of the brain are thought to play an important role. In the absence of conscious visual experience, patients with visual cortex damage discriminate the valence of emotional expression. Even in healthy individuals, a subliminal mechanism can be utilized to compensate for a functional decline in visual cognition of various causes such as strong sleepiness. In this study, sleep deprivation was simulated in healthy individuals to investigate functional alterations in the subliminal processing of emotional information caused by reduced conscious visual cognition and attention due to an increase in subjective sleepiness. Fourteen healthy adult men participated in a within-subject crossover study consisting of a 5-day session of sleep debt (SD, 4-h sleep) and a 5-day session of sleep control (SC, 8-h sleep). On the last day of each session, participants performed an emotional face-viewing task that included backward masking of nonconscious presentations during magnetic resonance scanning.
Finally, data from eleven participants who were unaware of nonconscious face presentations were analyzed. In fear contrasts, subjective sleepiness was significantly positively correlated with activity in the amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and insular cortex, and was significantly negatively correlated with the secondary and tertiary visual areas and the fusiform face area. In fear-neutral contrasts, subjective sleepiness was significantly positively correlated with activity of the bilateral amygdala. Further, changes in subjective sleepiness (the difference between the SC and SD sessions) were correlated with both changes in amygdala activity and functional connectivity between the amygdala and superior colliculus in response to subliminal fearful faces.
Sleepiness induced functional decline in the brain areas involved in conscious visual cognition of facial expressions, but also enhanced subliminal emotional processing via superior colliculus as represented by activity in the amygdala. These findings suggest that an evolutionally old and auxiliary subliminal hazard perception system is activated as a compensatory mechanism when conscious visual cognition is impaired. In addition, enhancement of subliminal emotional processing might cause involuntary emotional instability during sleep debt through changes in emotional response to or emotional evaluation of external stimuli.
Sleepiness; Nonconscious; Unconscious; Subliminal; Emotion; Fearful face; Amygdala
Evidence from neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies indicates that the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is a core region in emotional processing, particularly during down-regulation of negative emotional conditions. However, emotional regulation is a process subject to major inter-individual differences, some of which may be explained by personality traits. In the present study we used transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the left DLPFC to investigate whether transiently increasing the activity of this region resulted in changes in the ratings of positive, neutral and negative emotional pictures. Results revealed that anodal, but not cathodal, tDCS reduced the perceived degree of emotional valence for negative stimuli, possibly due to an enhancement of cognitive control of emotional expression. We also aimed to determine whether personality traits (extraversion and neuroticism) might condition the impact of tDCS. We found that individuals with higher scores on the introversion personality dimension were more permeable than extraverts to the modulatory effects of the stimulation. The present study underlines the role of the left DLPFC in emotional regulation, and stresses the importance of considering individual personality characteristics as a relevant variable, although replication is needed given the limited sample size of our study.
Mindfulness meditation involves attending to emotions without cognitive fixation of emotional experience. Over time, this practice is held to promote alterations in trait affectivity and attentional control with resultant effects on well-being and cognition. However, relatively little is known regarding the neural substrates of meditation effects on emotion and cognition. The present study investigated the neurocognitive correlates of emotion interference on cognition in Yoga practitioners and a matched control group (CG) underwent fMRI while performing an event-related affective Stroop task. The task includes image viewing trials and Stroop trials bracketed by neutral or negative emotional distractors. During image viewing trials, Yoga practitioners exhibited less reactivity in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) to negative as compared to neutral images; whereas the CG had the opposite pattern. A main effect of valence (negative > neutral) was observed in limbic regions (e.g., amygdala), of which the magnitude was inversely related to dlPFC activation. Exploratory analyses revealed that the magnitude of amygdala activation predicted decreased self-reported positive affect in the CG, but not among Yoga practitioners. During Stroop trials, Yoga practitioners had greater activation in ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) during Stroop trials when negative, compared to neutral, emotional distractor were presented; the CG exhibited the opposite pattern. Taken together, these data suggest that though Yoga practitioners exhibit limbic reactivity to negative emotional stimuli, such reactivity does not have downstream effects on later mood state. This uncoupling of viewing negative emotional images and affect among Yoga practitioners may be occasioned by their selective implementation of frontal executive-dependent strategies to reduce emotional interference during competing cognitive demands and not during emotional processing per se.
mindfulness; fMRI; emotion-cognition
The death of an attachment figure triggers intrusive thoughts of the deceased, sadness, and yearning for reunion. Recovery requires reduction of symptoms. We hypothesized that symptoms might correlate with a capacity to regulate attention toward reminders of the deceased, and activity in, and functional connectivity between, prefrontal regulatory regions and the amygdala.
Twenty recently bereaved subjects rated intrusive thoughts of the deceased versus a capacity to avoid thoughts (grief style). Reaction time was measured while subjects completed an Emotional Stroop (ES) task contrasting deceased-related with control words during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Subjects subsequently visualized the death of the deceased and rated induced emotions.
Subjects demonstrated attentional bias toward deceased-related words. Bias magnitude correlated with amygdala, insula, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activity. Amygdala activity predicted induced sadness intensity. A double dissociation between grief style and both prefrontal and amygdala subregion activity was found. Intrusiveness correlated with activation of ventral amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate (rACC); avoidance correlated with deactivation of dorsal amygdala and DLPFC. A double dissociation between regulatory region and task-dependent functional connectivity (FC) was found. High DLPFC-amygdala FC correlated with reduced attentional bias, while low rACC-amygdala FC predicted sadness intensity.
Results are consistent with a model in which activity in and functional connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal regulatory regions indexes differences in mourners' regulation of attention and sadness during pangs of grief, and may be used to distinguish between clinically relevant differences in grief style.
Attention; bereavement; cognitive control; emotion regulation; incentive salience; separation distress
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are associated with severe impairments in social functioning. Because faces provide nonverbal cues that support social interactions, many studies of ASD have examined neural structures that process faces, including the amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex and superior and middle temporal gyri. However, increases or decreases in activation are often contingent on the cognitive task. Specifically, the cognitive domain of attention influences group differences in brain activation. We investigated brain function abnormalities in participants with ASD using a task that monitored attention bias to emotional faces.
Twenty-four participants (12 with ASD, 12 controls) completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging study while performing an attention cuing task with emotional (happy, sad, angry) and neutral faces.
In response to emotional faces, those in the ASD group showed greater right amygdala activation than those in the control group. A preliminary psychophysiological connectivity analysis showed that ASD participants had stronger positive right amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex coupling and weaker positive right amygdala and temporal lobe coupling than controls. There were no group differences in the behavioural measure of attention bias to the emotional faces.
The small sample size may have affected our ability to detect additional group differences.
When attention bias to emotional faces was equivalent between ASD and control groups, ASD was associated with greater amygdala activation. Preliminary analyses showed that ASD participants had stronger connectivity between the amygdala ventromedial prefrontal cortex (a network implicated in emotional modulation) and weaker connectivity between the amygdala and temporal lobe (a pathway involved in the identification of facial expressions, although areas of group differences were generally in a more anterior region of the temporal lobe than what is typically reported for emotional face processing). These alterations in connectivity are consistent with emotion and face processing disturbances in ASD.
The functioning of neural systems supporting emotion processing and regulation in bipolar disorder-not otherwise specified (BP-NOS) youth remains poorly understood. We sought to examine patterns of activity and connectivity in BP-NOS youth relative to youth with BP-I and healthy controls (HC).
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.
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.
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.
Generalized social anxiety disorder (gSAD) is characterized by exaggerated amygdala reactivity to social signals of threat, but if and how the amygdala interacts with functionally and anatomically connected prefrontal cortex (PFC) remains largely unknown. Recent evidence points to aberrant amygdala connectivity to medial PFC in gSAD at rest, but it is difficult to attribute functional relevance without the context of threat processing. Here, we address this by studying amygdala-frontal cortex connectivity during viewing of fearful faces and at rest in gSAD patients.
Twenty patients with gSAD and 17 matched healthy controls (HCs) participated in functional magnetic resonance imaging of an emotional face matching task, and a resting state task. Functional connectivity and psychophysiological interaction analysis were used to assess amygdala connectivity.
Compared to HCs, gSAD patients exhibited less connectivity between amygdala and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) while viewing fearful faces. gSAD patients also showed less connectivity between amygdala and rostral ACC at rest in the absence of fearful faces. DLPFC connectivity was negatively correlated with LSASFear.
Task and rest paradigms provide unique and important information about discrete and overlapping functional networks. In particular, amygdala coupling to DLPFC may be a phasic abnormality, emerging only in the presence of a social predictor of threat, whereas amygdala coupling to the rostral ACC may reflect both phasic and tonic abnormalities. These findings prompt further studies to better delineate intrinsic and externally-evoked brain connectivity in anxiety and depression in relation to amygdala dysfunction.
Amygdala; ACC; DLPFC; Connectivity; Social Phobia; PPI
Inability to modulate attention away from emotional stimuli may be a key component of dysregulated emotion in bipolar disorder (BD). Previous studies of BD indicate abnormalities in neural circuitry underlying attentional control, yet few studies examined attentional control in the context of emotional distracters. We compared activity and connectivity in neural circuitry supporting attentional control and emotion processing among 22 individuals with BD type 1, currently remitted and euthymic, and 19 healthy controls. Participants performed an emotional n-back paradigm, comprising high and low attentional demand conditions, each with either emotional (happy, fearful), neutral or no face flanker distracters. During the high attentional control demand conditions without emotional distracters, BD individuals showed reduced activity versus controls in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), and inferior parietal cortex. During the high attentional control demand conditions with fearful-face distracters, BD individuals showed greater activity than controls in these regions and amygdala and striatum. Relative to controls, BD individuals also showed abnormal patterns of effective connectivity between dACC and amygdala during high attentional control demand with emotional face distracters. Inter-episode bipolar disorder is characterized by abnormal recruitment of attentional control neural circuitry, especially in the context of emotionally distracting information.
magnetic resonance imaging; attention; working memory; emotion regulation; effective connectivity
Excessive chronic drinking is accompanied by a broad spectrum of emotional changes ranging from apathy and emotional flatness to deficits in comprehending emotional information, but their neural bases are poorly understood.
Emotional abnormalities associated with alcoholism were examined with functional magnetic resonance imaging in abstinent long-term alcoholic men in comparison to healthy demographically matched controls. Participants were presented with emotionally valenced words and photographs of faces during deep (semantic) and shallow (perceptual) encoding tasks followed by recognition.
Overall, faces evoked stronger activation than words, with the expected material-specific laterality (left hemisphere for words, and right for faces) and depth of processing effects. However, whereas control participants showed stronger activation in the amygdala and hippocampus when viewing faces with emotional (relative to neutral) expressions, the alcoholics responded in an undifferentiated manner to all facial expressions. In the alcoholic participants, amygdala activity was inversely correlated with an increase in lateral prefrontal activity as a function of their behavioral deficits. Prefrontal modulation of emotional function as a compensation for the blunted amygdala activity during a socially relevant face appraisal task is in agreement with a distributed network engagement during emotional face processing.
Deficient activation of amygdala and hippocampus may underlie impaired processing of emotional faces associated with long-term alcoholism and may be a part of the wide array of behavioral problems including disinhibition, concurring with previously documented interpersonal difficulties in this population. Furthermore, the results suggest that alcoholics may rely on prefrontal rather than temporal limbic areas in order to compensate for reduced limbic responsivity and to maintain behavioral adequacy when faced with emotionally or socially challenging situations.
Alcoholism; Emotion; Faces; Amygdala; Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
The neurosteroid allopregnanolone is a potent allosteric modulator of the GABA(A) receptor with anxiolytic properties. Exogenous administration of allopregnanolone reduces anxiety, and allopregnanolone blockade impairs social and affective functioning. However, the neural mechanism whereby allopregnanolone improves mood and reduces anxiety is unknown. In particular, brain imaging has not been used to link neurosteroid effects to emotion regulation neurocircuitry.
To investigate the brain basis of allopregnanolone’s impact on emotion regulation, participants were administered 400mg of pregnenolone (N=16) or placebo (N=15) and underwent 3T fMRI while performing the Shifted-Attention Emotion Appraisal Task (SEAT), which probes emotional processing and regulation.
Compared to placebo, allopregnanolone was associated with reduced activity in the amygdala and insula across all conditions. During the appraisal condition, allopregnanolone increased activity in the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and enhanced connectivity between the amygdala and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, an effect that was associated with reduced self-reported anxiety.
These results demonstrate that in response to emotional stimuli, allopregnanolone reduces activity in regions associated with generation of negative emotion. Furthermore, allopregnanolone may enhance activity in regions linked to regulatory processes. Aberrant activity in these regions has been linked to anxiety psychopathology. These results thus provide initial neuroimaging evidence that allopregnanolone may be a target for pharmacological intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and suggest potential future directions for research into neurosteroid effects on emotion regulation neurocircuitry.
Allopregnanolone; neuroactive steroid; fMRI; pharmaco-fMRI; emotion regulation; anxiety; pregnenolone