NIH Research Festival
Anxious individuals tend to preferentially allocate their attention toward threatening information. This attention bias toward threat is implicated in anxiety disorders in both children and adults (Bar-Haim et al., 2007). Neuroimaging work suggests that threat bias is associated with dysfunctional activation in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (Britton et al., 2011) and the amygdala (Hardee et al., 2013; Monk et al., 2008). In the current study, 36 youth with anxiety disorders and 38 non-anxious youth completed a dot-probe task in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Following a pair of angry-neutral faces or neutral-neutral faces, participants identified a probe (< vs. >) that appeared in one of the previously occupied locations. Attention biases were measured by comparing the reaction times between incongruent (probe appearing in the neutral face location) and congruent (probe appearing in the angry face location) trials. Using Psychophysiological Interaction (PPI) analyses with anatomical amygdala as seed regions, between-group differences in fronto-amygdala connectivity were probed using multivariate modeling. A Group x Condition interaction was detected in the right vlPFC using the left amygdala as a seed region and in the right vlPFC using the right amygdala as a seed region. Compared to the non-anxious group, results revealed larger negative connectivity in the anxious group during threat trials compared to neutral trials (all ps < .004). These results suggest that pediatric anxiety is associated with dysfunctional fronto-amygdala connectivity associated with threat processing. Findings from the current study may inform target brain regions for future treatment research.
Scientific Focus Area: Neuroscience
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