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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Jul;9(7):900-8. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst064. Epub 2013 Apr 24.

Ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the regulation of physiological arousal.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA, Department of Medicine, VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, CT 06516, USA, Department of Science and technology, University Federal De Sao Paulo, Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, and Department of Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA sheng.zhang@yale.edu.
2
Department of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA, Department of Medicine, VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, CT 06516, USA, Department of Science and technology, University Federal De Sao Paulo, Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, and Department of Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
3
Department of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA, Department of Medicine, VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, CT 06516, USA, Department of Science and technology, University Federal De Sao Paulo, Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, and Department of Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USADepartment of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA, Department of Medicine, VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, CT 06516, USA, Department of Science and technology, University Federal De Sao Paulo, Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, and Department of Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
4
Department of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA, Department of Medicine, VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, CT 06516, USA, Department of Science and technology, University Federal De Sao Paulo, Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, and Department of Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USADepartment of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA, Department of Medicine, VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, CT 06516, USA, Department of Science and technology, University Federal De Sao Paulo, Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, and Department of Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USADepartment of Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA, Department of Medicine, VA Connecticut Healthcare Systems, West Haven, CT 06516, USA, Department of Science and technology, University Federal De Sao Paulo, Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA, Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, and Department of Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.

Abstract

Neuroimaging studies show a correlation between activity of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and skin conductance measurements. However, little is known whether this brain region plays a causal role in regulating physiological arousal. To address this question, we employed Granger causality analysis (GCA) to establish causality between cerebral blood oxygenation level-dependent and skin conductance signals in 24 healthy adults performing a cognitive task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The results showed that activity of the vmPFC not only negatively correlated with skin conductance level (SCL) but also Granger caused SCL, thus establishing the direction of influence. Importantly, across participants, the strength of Granger causality was negatively correlated to phasic skin conductance responses elicited by external events during the behavioral task. In contrast, activity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex positively correlated with SCL but did not show a causal relationship in GCA. These new findings indicate that the vmPFC plays a causal role in regulating physiological arousal. Increased vmPFC activity leads to a decrease in skin conductance. The findings may also advance our understanding of dysfunctions of the vmPFC in mood and anxiety disorders that involve altered control of physiological arousal.

KEYWORDS:

Granger causality; arousal; skin conductance; ventromedial prefrontal cortex

PMID:
23620600
PMCID:
PMC4090954
DOI:
10.1093/scan/nst064
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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