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Altered Development of Amygdala-Anterior Cingulate Cortex Connectivity in Anxious Youth and Young Adults.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
2
Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
3
Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
4
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
5
Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Development of cortico-amygdala circuitry underlies the maturation of emotion processing and regulation, and age-related changes in amygdala connectivity with anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) have been shown to mediate normative developmental decreases in anxiety. It remains unclear whether developmental changes in this circuitry relate to pathological anxiety in youth. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study addresses this question by examining amygdala functional connectivity in anxious and healthy individuals spanning the developmental period from childhood through adulthood.

METHODS:

Youth and young adults (age 7-25) with current anxiety disorders (n=57) and healthy comparisons (n=61) completed an fMRI emotional face processing task known to elicit amygdala activation in youth and adults. We examined interaction effects of anxiety group and age on amygdala connectivity with frontolimbic regions during processing of happy, angry, and fearful faces.

RESULTS:

Anxiety interacted with age to predict amygdala-ACC connectivity across emotional faces. Among healthy comparisons, age was negatively related to connectivity. In contrast, age was positively associated with amygdala-ACC connectivity in the anxious group. Group effects were also observed on amygdala connectivity with midcingulate and middle frontal gyri. Effects of anxiety and age on amygdala activation were not significant.

CONCLUSIONS:

Results indicate that anxiety is characterized by altered patterns of age-related changes in amygdala connectivity during emotional face processing. Positive associations between age and amygdala-ACC connectivity among anxious youth and young adults may indicate failure to establish early bottom-up connections in childhood and/or less top-down regulation of the amygdala into adulthood.

KEYWORDS:

amygdala; anterior cingulate cortex; anxiety; development; emotional faces; functional connectivity

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