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The phobic fear response appears to resemble an intense form of normal threat responding that can be induced in a nonthreatening situation. However, normative and phobic fear are rarely contrasted directly, thus the degree to which these two types of fear elicit similar neural and bodily responses is not well understood. To examine biological correlates of normal and phobic fear, 21 snake phobic and 21 nonphobic controls saw videos of slithering snakes, attacking snakes and fish in an event-related fMRI design. Simultaneous eletrodermal, pupillary, and self-reported affective responses were collected. Nonphobic fear activated a network of threat-responsive brain regions and involved pupillary dilation, electrodermal response and self-reported affect selective to the attacking snakes. Phobic fear recruited a large array of brain regions including those active in normal fear plus additional structures and also engendered increased pupil dilation, electrodermal and self-reported responses that were greater to any snake versus fish. Importantly, phobics showed greater between- and within-subject concordance among neural, electrodermal, pupillary, and subjective report measures. These results suggest phobic responses recruit overlapping but more strongly activated and more extensive networks of brain activity as compared to normative fear, and are characterized by greater concordance among neural activation, peripheral physiology and self-report. It is yet unclear whether concordance is unique to psychopathology, or rather simply an indicator of the intense fear seen in the phobic response, but these results underscore the importance of synchrony between brain, body, and cognition during the phobic reaction.
BACKGROUND: The frontal lobe has been crucially involved in the neurobiology of major depression, but inconsistencies among studies exist, in part due to a failure of considering modulatory variables such as symptom severity, comorbidity with anxiety, and distinct subtypes, as codeterminants for patterns of brain activation in depression. METHODS: Resting electroencephalogram was recorded in 38 unmedicated subjects with major depressive disorder and 18 normal comparison subjects, and analyzed with a tomographic source localization method that computes the cortical three-dimensional distribution of current density for standard electroencephalogram frequency bands. Symptom severity and anxiety were measured via self-report and melancholic features via clinical interview. RESULTS: Depressed subjects showed more excitatory (beta3, 21.5-30.0 Hz) activity in the right superior and inferior frontal lobe (Brodmann's area 9/10/11) than comparison subjects. In melancholic subjects, this effect was particularly pronounced for severe depression, and right frontal activity correlated positively with anxiety. Depressed subjects showed posterior cingulate and precuneus hypoactivity. CONCLUSIONS: While confirming prior results implicating right frontal and posterior cingulate regions, this study highlights the importance of depression severity, anxiety, and melancholic features in patterns of brain activity accompanying depression.
The authors examined the time course of affective responding associated with different affective dimensions--anxious apprehension, anxious arousal, and anhedonic depression--using an emotion-modulated startle paradigm. Participants high on 1 of these 3 dimensions and nonsymptomatic control participants viewed a series of affective pictures with acoustic startle probes presented before, during, and after the stimuli. All groups exhibited startle potentiation during unpleasant pictures and in anticipation of both pleasant and unpleasant pictures. Compared with control participants, symptomatic participants exhibited sustained potentiation following the offset of unpleasant stimuli and a lack of blink attenuation during and following pleasant stimuli. Common and unique patterns of affective responses in the 3 types of mood symptoms are discussed.
Emotion is normally regulated in the human brain by a complex circuit consisting of the orbital frontal cortex, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and several other interconnected regions. There are both genetic and environmental contributions to the structure and function of this circuitry. We posit that impulsive aggression and violence arise as a consequence of faulty emotion regulation. Indeed, the prefrontal cortex receives a major serotonergic projection, which is dysfunctional in individuals who show impulsive violence. Individuals vulnerable to faulty regulation of negative emotion are at risk for violence and aggression. Research on the neural circuitry of emotion regulation suggests new avenues of intervention for such at-risk populations.
BACKGROUND: Two core characteristics of pathologic fear are its rapid onset and resistance to cognitive regulation. We hypothesized that activation of the amygdala early in the presentation of fear-relevant visual stimuli would distinguish phobics from nonphobics. METHODS: Chronometry of amygdala activation to phobia-relevant pictures was assessed in 13 spider phobics and 14 nonphobics using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). RESULTS: Blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the amygdala early in picture processing consistently differentiated between phobic and nonphobic subjects, as well as between phobogenic and nonphobogenic stimuli among phobics. Furthermore, amygdalar BOLD responses associated with timing but not magnitude of activation predicted affective responses to phobogenic stimuli. Computational modeling procedures were used to identify patterns of neural activation in the amygdala that could yield the observed BOLD data. These data suggest that phobic responses were characterized by strong but brief amygdala responses, whereas nonphobic responses were weaker and more sustained. CONCLUSIONS: Results are discussed in the context of the amygdala's role in rapid threat detection and the vigilance-avoidance hypothesis of anxiety. These data highlight the importance of examining the neural substrates of the immediate impact of phobogenic stimuli for understanding pathological fear.
It is well known that the eating patterns that restrain chronic dieters (restrained eaters) can be disinhibited by anxiety, which in turn has been associated with relative right frontal brain activity in independent electroencephalographic (EEG) studies. Combining these two lines of evidence, the authors tested the hypothesis that chronic restrained eating is associated with relative right frontal asymmetry. Resting anterior brain asymmetry and self-reported measures of anxiety and depression were collected in 23 restrained and 32 unrestrained eaters. As hypothesized, groups differed in tonic frontal activity, with restrained eaters showing more relative right frontal activity. Furthermore, relative right frontal activity was associated with greater self-reported restraint. Right-sided prefrontal asymmetry may thus represent a diathesis associated with increased vulnerability toward restrained eating.
The relationships between brain electrical and metabolic activity are being uncovered currently in animal models using invasive methods; however, in the human brain this relationship remains not well understood. In particular, the relationship between noninvasive measurements of electrical activity and metabolism remains largely undefined. To understand better these relations, cerebral activity was measured simultaneously with electroencephalography (EEG) and positron emission tomography using [(18)f]-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (PET-FDG) in 12 normal human subjects during rest. Intracerebral distributions of current density were estimated, yielding tomographic maps for seven standard EEG frequency bands. The PET and EEG data were registered to the same space and voxel dimensions, and correlational maps were created on a voxel-by-voxel basis across all subjects. For each band, significant positive and negative correlations were found that are generally consistent with extant understanding of EEG band power function. With increasing EEG frequency, there was an increase in the number of positively correlated voxels, whereas the lower alpha band (8.5-10.0 Hz) was associated with the highest number of negative correlations. This work presents a method for comparing EEG signals with other more traditionally tomographic functional imaging data on a 3-D basis. This method will be useful in the future when it is applied to functional imaging methods with faster time resolution, such as short half-life PET blood flow tracers and functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The present study was undertaken to determine whether aversiveness contributes to startle potentiation in anticipation of affective pictures above and beyond the effects of emotional arousal. Further, participants high in trait anxious apprehension, which is characterized by worry about the future, were expected to show especially pronounced anticipatory startle responses. Startle blink reflex was measured during warning stimuli that predicted the valence of ensuing aversive/unpleasant, pleasant, or neutral pictures. Startle magnitude was larger in anticipation of aversive than of pleasant pictures and smallest in anticipation of neutral pictures. Enhanced startle potentiation was not found in anxious apprehension subjects. These data suggest that the aversive nature of stimuli contribute to the potentiation of startle above and beyond the effects of emotional arousal, which may be a universal phenomenon not modulated by individual differences.