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Elevated amygdala response to emotional faces in youths with chronic irritability or bipolar disorder

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 — Poster Session II

Noon – 2:00 p.m

Natcher Conference Center, Building 45




  • K.E. Hinton
  • L.A. Thomas
  • P. Kim
  • B.L. Bones
  • H.S. Milch
  • K. Lindstrom
  • RC. Reynolds
  • N. Adelman
  • A.A. Marsh
  • R.J.R Blair
  • D.S. Pine
  • E. Leibenluft


Background: There is much debate about whether children who exhibit severe non-episodic irritability are a subtype of pediatric bipolar disorder (BD), or whether they form a distinct phenotype. While amygdala dysfunction is well-documented in classic episodic BD, few studies have examined neural activity during emotion processing in children with chronic irritability [operationalized as Severe Mood Dysregulation (SMD)]. Methods: This fMRI study compared the neural activity during an implicit face emotion processing task (angry, fearful, and neutral expressions) of 19 SMD youth, 19 BD youth, and 15 healthy volunteers (HV). A Region of Interest (ROI) analysis of the amygdala and a whole brain analysis (p<.05, corrected) were conducted using AFNI. Results: As compared with HV youth, SMD and BD youth demonstrated increased activity in the right amygdala across all expressions (F(2,50) = 3.39, p < .05). In the bilateral dorsal anterior and posterior cingulate cortex, posterior insula, and left inferior parietal lobe, SMD youth exhibited decreased activity to fearful expressions as compared with other groups, whereas BD youth exhibited decreased activity to angry expressions. Conclusions: While SMD and BD youth may share similar amygdala perturbations during face emotion processing, they appear to have unique neural deficits in other brain regions.

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