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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005 Aug;180(4):670-9. Epub 2005 Sep 14.

Individual differences in threat sensitivity predict serotonergic modulation of amygdala response to fearful faces.

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MRC Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Centre.



In this study we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the effects of acute tryptophan depletion (ATD), a well-recognised method for inducing transient cerebral serotonin depletion, on brain activation to fearful faces.


We predicted that ATD would increase the responsiveness of the amygdala to fearful faces as a function of individual variation in threat sensitivity.


Twelve healthy male volunteers received a tryptophan depleting drink or a tryptophan balancing amino acid drink (placebo) in a double-blind crossover design. Five hours after drink ingestion participants were scanned whilst viewing fearful, happy and neutral faces.


Consistent with previous findings, fearful faces induced significant signal change in the bilateral amygdala/hippocampus as well as the fusiform face area and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, ATD modulated amygdala/hippocampus activation in response to fearful relative to happy faces as a function of self-reported threat sensitivity (as measured with the Behavioral Inhibition Scale; Carver CS, White TL (1994) Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: the BIS/BAS scales. J Pers Soc Psychol 67:319-333).


The data support the hypothesis that individual variation in threat sensitivity interacts with manipulation of 5-HT function to bias the processing of amygdala-dependent threat-relevant stimuli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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