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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2011 Mar;11(1):13-21. doi: 10.3758/s13415-010-0007-9.

Expectation and temperament moderate amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex responses to fear faces.

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Vanderbilt Medical School Department of Psychiatry, 1601 23rd Avenue South, Suite 3057J, Nashville, TN 37212, USA.


A chronic tendency to avoid novelty is often the result of a temperamental bias called inhibited temperament, and is associated with increased risk for anxiety disorders. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that an inhibited temperament is associated with increased amygdalar blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) response to unfamiliar faces that were not expected; however, the effects of variations in expectancy remain unknown. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we studied BOLD response to infrequently encountered fear faces that were either expected or not expected in 42 adults with an inhibited or an uninhibited temperament. Individuals with an inhibited temperament had greater amygdala, but less dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), BOLD response when the stimuli were expected. In contrast, those with an uninhibited temperament had a smaller amygdala but larger dorsal anterior cingulate cortex BOLD response when expecting to see fear faces. These findings demonstrate temperament differences in expectancy effects and provide preliminary evidence for the dACC as a neural substrate mediating differences in inhibited temperament. Enhanced amygdala sensitivity coupled with weak inhibitory control from the dACC may form a neural circuit mediating behaviors characteristic of inhibited temperament and risk for anxiety disorders.

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