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J Neurosci. 2010 Dec 8;30(49):16673-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4578-09.2010.

Amygdala reactivity in healthy adults is correlated with prefrontal cortical thickness.

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Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Department of Neurology, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Recent evidence suggests that putting feelings into words activates the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and suppresses the response of the amygdala, potentially helping to alleviate emotional distress. To further elucidate the relationship between brain structure and function in these regions, structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were collected from a sample of 20 healthy human subjects. Structural MRI data were processed using cortical pattern-matching algorithms to produce spatially normalized maps of cortical thickness. During functional scanning, subjects cognitively assessed an emotional target face by choosing one of two linguistic labels (label emotion condition) or matched geometric forms (control condition). Manually prescribed regions of interest for the left amygdala were used to extract percentage signal change in this region occurring during the contrast of label emotion versus match forms. A correlation analysis between left amygdala activation and cortical thickness was then performed along each point of the cortical surface, resulting in a color-coded r value at each cortical point. Correlation analyses revealed that gray matter thickness in left ventromedial PFC was inversely correlated with task-related activation in the amygdala. These data add support to a general role of the ventromedial PFC in regulating activity of the amygdala.

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