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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Aug 2;113(31):8837-42. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1600965113. Epub 2016 Jul 18.

Dynamic neural activity during stress signals resilient coping.

Author information

  • 1Yale Stress Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519; Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06511; Department of Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520; Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519; rajita.sinha@yale.edu.
  • 2Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520.
  • 3Yale Stress Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519; Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06511;

Abstract

Active coping underlies a healthy stress response, but neural processes supporting such resilient coping are not well-known. Using a brief, sustained exposure paradigm contrasting highly stressful, threatening, and violent stimuli versus nonaversive neutral visual stimuli in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we show significant subjective, physiologic, and endocrine increases and temporally related dynamically distinct patterns of neural activation in brain circuits underlying the stress response. First, stress-specific sustained increases in the amygdala, striatum, hypothalamus, midbrain, right insula, and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) regions supported the stress processing and reactivity circuit. Second, dynamic neural activation during stress versus neutral runs, showing early increases followed by later reduced activation in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), left DLPFC, hippocampus, and left insula, suggested a stress adaptation response network. Finally, dynamic stress-specific mobilization of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VmPFC), marked by initial hypoactivity followed by increased VmPFC activation, pointed to the VmPFC as a key locus of the emotional and behavioral control network. Consistent with this finding, greater neural flexibility signals in the VmPFC during stress correlated with active coping ratings whereas lower dynamic activity in the VmPFC also predicted a higher level of maladaptive coping behaviors in real life, including binge alcohol intake, emotional eating, and frequency of arguments and fights. These findings demonstrate acute functional neuroplasticity during stress, with distinct and separable brain networks that underlie critical components of the stress response, and a specific role for VmPFC neuroflexibility in stress-resilient coping.

KEYWORDS:

binge alcohol intake; emotional eating; functional neuroimaging; resilience coping; stress

PMID:
27432990
PMCID:
PMC4978278
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1600965113
[PubMed - in process]
Free PMC Article
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