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Anxious temperament (AT) in human and non-human primates is a trait-like phenotype evident early in life that is characterized by increased behavioural and physiological reactivity to mildly threatening stimuli. Studies in children demonstrate that AT is an important risk factor for the later development of anxiety disorders, depression and comorbid substance abuse. Despite its importance as an early predictor of psychopathology, little is known about the factors that predispose vulnerable children to develop AT and the brain systems that underlie its expression. To characterize the neural circuitry associated with AT and the extent to which the function of this circuit is heritable, we studied a large sample of rhesus monkeys phenotyped for AT. Using 238 young monkeys from a multigenerational single-family pedigree, we simultaneously assessed brain metabolic activity and AT while monkeys were exposed to the relevant ethological condition that elicits the phenotype. High-resolution (18)F-labelled deoxyglucose positron-emission tomography (FDG-PET) was selected as the imaging modality because it provides semi-quantitative indices of absolute glucose metabolic rate, allows for simultaneous measurement of behaviour and brain activity, and has a time course suited for assessing temperament-associated sustained brain responses. Here we demonstrate that the central nucleus region of the amygdala and the anterior hippocampus are key components of the neural circuit predictive of AT. We also show significant heritability of the AT phenotype by using quantitative genetic analysis. Additionally, using voxelwise analyses, we reveal significant heritability of metabolic activity in AT-associated hippocampal regions. However, activity in the amygdala region predictive of AT is not significantly heritable. Furthermore, the heritabilities of the hippocampal and amygdala regions significantly differ from each other. Even though these structures are closely linked, the results suggest differential influences of genes and environment on how these brain regions mediate AT and the ongoing risk of developing anxiety and depression.
Background A key to successful adaptation is the ability to regulate emotional responses in relation to changing environmental demands or contexts. Methods High-resolution PET 18fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG) scanning in rhesus monkeys was performed during two contexts (alone, and human intruder with no eye contact) during which the duration of anxiety related freezing behavior was assessed. Correlations between individual differences in freezing duration and brain activity were performed for each of the two conditions, as well as for the contextual regulation between the two conditions. Results In both conditions, activity in the basal forebrain, including the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the nucleus accumbens were correlated with individual differences in freezing duration. In contrast, individual differences in the ability to regulate freezing behavior between contexts were correlated with activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the thalamus and the dorsal raphe nucleus. Conclusions These findings demonstrate differences in the neural circuitry mediating the expression compared to the contextual regulation of freezing behavior. These findings are relevant since altered regulatory processes may underlie anxiety disorders.
In primates, during times of need, calling for help is a universal experience. Calling for help recruits social support and promotes survival. However, calling for help also can attract predators, and it is adaptive to inhibit calls for help when a potential threat is perceived. Based on this, we hypothesized that individual differences in calling for help would be related to the activity of brain systems that mediate goal-directed behavior and the detection of threat. By using high-resolution positron emission tomography in rhesus monkeys undergoing social separation, we demonstrate that increased [18F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose uptake in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and decreased uptake in the amygdala independently predict individual differences in calling for help. When taken together, these two regions account for 76% of the variance in calling for help. This result suggests that the drive for affiliation and the perception of threat determine the intensity of an individual's behavior during separation. These findings in monkeys are relevant to humans and provide a conceptual neural framework to understand individual differences in how primates behave when in need of social support.
Children with anxious temperament (AT) are particularly sensitive to new social experiences and have increased risk for developing anxiety and depression. The young rhesus monkey is optimal for studying the origin of human AT because it shares with humans the genetic, neural, and phenotypic underpinnings of complex social and emotional functioning. In vivo imaging in young monkeys demonstrated that central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce) metabolism is relatively stable across development and predicts AT. Transcriptome-wide gene expression, which reflects combined genetic and environmental influences, was assessed within the Ce. Results support a maladaptive neurodevelopmental hypothesis linking decreased amygdala neuroplasticity to early-life dispositional anxiety. For example, high AT individuals had decreased mRNA expression of neurotrophic tyrosine kinase, receptor, type 3 (NTRK3). Moreover, variation in Ce NTRK3 expression was inversely correlated with Ce metabolism and other AT-substrates. These data suggest that altered amygdala neuroplasticity may play a role the early dispositional risk to develop anxiety and depression.
Compassion is a key motivator of altruistic behavior, but little is known about individuals’ capacity to cultivate compassion through training. We examined whether compassion may be systematically trained by testing whether (i) short-term compassion training increases altruistic behavior, and (ii) individual differences in altruism are associated with training-induced changes in neural responses to suffering. In healthy young adults, we found that compassion training increased altruistic redistribution of funds to a victim encountered outside of the training context. Furthermore, greater altruistic behavior after compassion training was associated with altered activation in regions implicated in social cognition and emotion regulation, including the inferior parietal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and DLPFC connectivity with the nucleus accumbens. These results suggest that compassion can be cultivated with training, where greater altruistic behavior may emerge from increased engagement in neural systems implicated in understanding the suffering of others, executive and emotional control, and reward processing.
PET imaging of the neuroreceptor systems in the brain has earned a prominent role in studying normal development, neuropsychiatric illness and developing targeted drugs. The dopaminergic system is of particular interest due to its role in the development of cognitive function and mood as well as its suspected involvement in neuropsychiatric illness. Nonhuman primate animal models provide a valuable resource for relating neurochemical changes to behavior. To facilitate comparison within and between primate models, we report in vivo D2/D3 binding in a large cohort of adolescent rhesus monkeys. METHODS: In this work, the in vivo D2/D3 dopamine receptor availability was measured in a cohort of 33 rhesus monkeys in the adolescent stage of development (3.2-5.3 years). Both striatal and extrastriatal D2/D3 binding were measured using [F-18]fallypride with a high resolution small animal PET scanner. The distribution volume ratio (DVR) was measured for all subjects and group comparisons of D2/D3 binding among the cohort were made based on age and sex. Because two sequential studies were acquired from a single [F-18]fallypride batch, the effect of competing (unlabeled) ligand mass was also investigated. RESULTS: Among this cohort, the rank order of regional D2/D3 receptor binding did not vary from previous studies with adult rhesus monkeys, with: putamen>caudate>ventral striatum>amygdala approximately substantia nigra>medial dorsal thalamus>lateral temporal cortex approximately frontal cortex. The DVR coefficient of variation ranged from 14%-26%, with the greatest variance seen in the head of the caudate. There were significant sex differences in [F-18]fallypride kinetics in the pituitary gland, but this was not observed for regions within the blood-brain barrier. Furthermore, no regions in the brain showed significant sex or age related differences in DVR within this small age range. Based on a wide range of injected fallypride mass across the cohort, significant competition effects could only be detected in the substantia nigra, thalamus, and frontal cortex, and were not evident above intersubject variability in all other regions. CONCLUSION: These data represent the first report of large cohort in vivo D2/D3 dopamine whole brain binding in the adolescent brain and will serve as a valuable comparison for understanding dopamine changes during this critical time of development and provide a framework for creating a dopaminergic biochemical atlas for the rhesus monkey.
Pseudoneglect is traditionally viewed as reflecting right hemisphere specialization for processing spatial information, resulting in orienting toward the contralateral, left, hemispace. Recent evidence suggests that healthy individuals differ from each other in both direction and magnitude of orienting bias, and moreover, the bias displayed by a person is consistent across time, suggesting that it may represent a trait of the individual. Animal studies reveal consistent orienting bias within an individual, which reflects asymmetry in dopaminergic brain systems. We measured basal D2-like receptor binding using positron emission tomography and the high-affinity ligand [F-18]fallypride, to test the hypothesis that asymmetry in dopaminergic neurotransmission in healthy humans modulates the orienting bias in humans. As predicted, we found that individual differences in the direction and magnitude of the orienting bias were strongly associated with the pattern of asymmetric binding of dopamine (DA) D2 receptors in the striatum, as well as clusters in the frontal and temporal cortex. These findings show for the first time that orienting bias reflects individual differences in the lateralization of DA systems in the healthy human brain.
Neuroanatomists posit that the central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce) and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) comprise two major nodes of a macrostructural forebrain entity termed the extended amygdala. The extended amygdala is thought to play a critical role in adaptive motivational behavior and is implicated in the pathophysiology of maladaptive fear and anxiety. Resting functional connectivity of the Ce was examined in 107 young anesthetized rhesus monkeys and 105 young humans using standard resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods to assess temporal correlations across the brain. The data expand the neuroanatomical concept of the extended amygdala by finding, in both species, highly significant functional coupling between the Ce and the BST. These results support the use of in vivo functional imaging methods in nonhuman and human primates to probe the functional anatomy of major brain networks such as the extended amygdala.
A current limitation for imaging of brain function is the potential confound of anatomical differences or registration error, which may manifest via apparent functional "activation" for between-subject analyses. With respect to functional activations, underlying tissue mismatches can be regarded as a nuisance variable. We propose adding the probability of gray matter at a given voxel as a covariate (nuisance variable) in the analysis of voxelwise multisubject functional data using standard statistical techniques. A method is presented to assess the extent to which a functional activation can reliably be explained by underlying anatomical differences, and simultaneously, to assess the component of the functional activation which cannot be attributed to anatomical difference and thus is likely due to functional difference alone. Extension of the method to other intermodal imaging applications is discussed. Two exemplary data sets, one PET and one fMRI, are used to demonstrate the implementation and utility of this method, which apportions the relative contributions of anatomy and function for an apparent functional activation. The examples show two distinct types of results. First, a so-called functional activation may actually be caused by a systematic anatomical difference which, when modeled, diminishes the functional effect. In the second result type, including the anatomical differences in the model can account for a large component of otherwise unmodeled variance, yielding an increase in the functional effect cluster size and/or magnitude. In either case, ignoring the readily available structural information can lead to misinterpretation of functional results.
It has been argued that emotion, pain, and cognitive control are functionally segregated in distinct subdivisions of the cingulate cortex. But recent observations encourage a fundamentally different view. Imaging studies indicate that negative affect, pain, and cognitive control activate an overlapping region of dorsal cingulate, the anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC). Anatomical studies reveal that aMCC constitutes a hub where information about reinforcers can be linked to motor centers responsible for expressing affect and executing goal-directed behavior. Computational modeling and other kinds of evidence suggest that this intimacy reflects control processes that are common to all three domains. These observations compel a reconsideration of dorsal cingulate’s contribution to negative affect and pain.
Humans show consistent differences in the extent to which their behavior reflects a bias toward appetitive approach-related behavior or avoidance of aversive stimuli [Elliot, A. J. Approach and avoidance motivation. In A. J. Elliot (Ed.), Handbook of approach and avoidance motivation (pp. 3-14). New York: Psychology Press, 2008]. We examined the hypothesis that in healthy participants this motivational bias (assessed by self-report and by a probabilistic learning task that allows direct comparison of the relative sensitivity to reward and punishment) reflects lateralization of dopamine signaling. Using [F-18]fallypride to measure D2/D3 binding, we found that self-reported motivational bias was predicted by the asymmetry of frontal D2 binding. Similarly, striatal and frontal asymmetries in D2 dopamine receptor binding, rather than absolute binding levels, predicted individual differences in learning from reward versus punishment. These results suggest that normal variation in asymmetry of dopamine signaling may, in part, underlie human personality and cognition.
The impact of using motion estimates as covariates of no interest was examined in general linear modeling (GLM) of both block design and rapid event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. The purpose of motion correction is to identify and eliminate artifacts caused by task-correlated motion while maximizing sensitivity to true activations. To optimize this process, a combination of motion correction approaches was applied to data from 33 subjects performing both a block-design and an event-related fMRI experiment, including analysis: (1) without motion correction; (2) with motion correction alone; (3) with motion-corrected data and motion covariates included in the GLM; and (4) with non-motion-corrected data and motion covariates included in the GLM. Inclusion of covariates was found to be generally useful for increasing the sensitivity of GLM results in the analysis of event-related data. When motion parameters were included in the GLM for event-related data, it made little difference if motion correction was actually applied to the data. For the block design, inclusion of motion covariates had a deleterious impact on GLM sensitivity when even moderate correlation existed between motion and the experimental design. Based on these results, we present a general strategy for block designs, event-related designs, and hybrid designs to identify and eliminate probable motion artifacts while maximizing sensitivity to true activations.
Children with an anxious temperament (AT) are at risk for developing psychiatric disorders along the internalizing spectrum, including anxiety and depression. Like these disorders, AT is a multidimensional phenotype and children with extreme anxiety show varying mixtures of physiological, behavioral, and other symptoms. Using a well-validated juvenile monkey model of AT, we addressed the degree to which this phenotypic heterogeneity reflects fundamental differences or similarities in the underlying neurobiology. The rhesus macaque is optimal for studying AT because children and young monkeys express the anxious phenotype in similar ways and have similar neurobiology. Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) in 238 freely behaving monkeys identified brain regions where metabolism predicted variation in three dimensions of the AT phenotype: hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity, freezing behavior, and expressive vocalizations. We distinguished brain regions that predicted all three dimensions of the phenotype from those that selectively predicted a single dimension. Elevated activity in the central nucleus of the amygdala and the anterior hippocampus was consistently found across individuals with different presentations of AT. In contrast, elevated activity in the lateral anterior hippocampus was selective to individuals with high levels of HPA activity, and decreased activity in the motor cortex (M1) was selective to those with high levels of freezing behavior. Furthermore, activity in these phenotype-selective regions mediated relations between amygdala metabolism and different expressions of anxiety. These findings provide a framework for understanding the mechanisms that lead to heterogeneity in the clinical presentation of internalizing disorders and set the stage for developing improved interventions.
BACKGROUND: Anxious temperament (AT) is identifiable early in life and predicts the later development of anxiety disorders and depression. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a putative endogenous anxiolytic neurotransmitter that adaptively regulates responses to stress and might confer resilience to stress-related psychopathology. With a well-validated nonhuman primate model of AT, we examined expression of the NPY system in the central nucleus (Ce) of the amygdala, a critical neural substrate for extreme anxiety. METHODS: In 24 young rhesus monkeys, we measured Ce messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of all members of the NPY system that are detectable in the Ce with quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction. We then examined the relationship between these mRNA levels and both AT expression and brain metabolism. RESULTS: Lower mRNA levels of neuropeptide Y receptor 1 (NPY1R) and NPY5R but not NPY or NPY2R in the Ce predicted elevated AT; mRNA levels for NPY1R and NPY5R in the motor cortex were not related to AT. In situ hybridization analysis provided for the first time a detailed description of NPY1R and NPY5R mRNA distribution in the rhesus amygdala and associated regions. Lastly, mRNA levels for these two receptors in the Ce predicted metabolic activity in several regions that have the capacity to regulate the Ce. CONCLUSIONS: Decreased NPY signaling in the Ce might contribute to the altered metabolic activity that is a component of the neural substrate underlying AT. This suggests that enhancement of NPY signaling might reduce the risk to develop psychopathology.
In children, behavioral inhibition (BI) in response to potential threat predicts the development of anxiety and affective disorders, and primate lesion studies suggest involvement of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in mediating BI. Lesion studies are essential for establishing causality in brain-behavior relationships, but should be interpreted cautiously because the impact of a discrete lesion on a complex neural circuit extends beyond the lesion location. Complementary functional imaging methods assessing how lesions influence other parts of the circuit can aid in precisely understanding how lesions affect behavior. Using this combination of approaches in monkeys, we found that OFC lesions concomitantly alter BI and metabolism in the bed nucleus of stria terminalis (BNST) region and that individual differences in BNST activity predict BI. Thus it appears that an important function of the OFC in response to threat is to modulate the BNST, which may more directly influence the expression of BI.
Positive affect elicited in a mother toward her newborn infant may be one of the most powerful and evolutionarily preserved forms of positive affect in the emotional landscape of human behavior. This study examined the neurobiology of this form of positive emotion and in so doing, sought to overcome the difficulty of eliciting robust positive affect in response to visual stimuli in the physiological laboratory. Six primiparous human mothers with no indications of postpartum depression brought their infants into the laboratory for a photo shoot. Approximately 6 weeks later, they viewed photographs of their infant, another infant, and adult faces during acquisition of functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI). Mothers exhibited bilateral activation of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) while viewing pictures of their own versus unfamiliar infants. While in the scanner, mothers rated their mood more positively for pictures of their own infants than for unfamiliar infants, adults, or at baseline. The orbitofrontal activation correlated positively with pleasant mood ratings. In contrast, areas of visual cortex that also discriminated between own and unfamiliar infants were unrelated to mood ratings. These data implicate the orbitofrontal cortex in a mother's affective responses to her infant, a form of positive emotion that has received scant attention in prior human neurobiological studies. Furthermore, individual variations in orbitofrontal activation to infant stimuli may reflect an important dimension of maternal attachment.
Our outside world changes continuously, for example, when driving through traffic. An important question is how our brain deals with this constant barrage of rapidly changing sensory input and flexibly selects only newly goal-relevant information for further capacity-limited processing in working memory. The challenge our brain faces is experimentally captured by the attentional blink (AB): an impairment in detecting the second of two target stimuli presented in close temporal proximity among distracters. Many theories have been proposed to explain this deficit in processing goal-relevant information, with some attributing the AB to capacity limitations related to encoding of the first target and others assigning a critical role to on-line selection mechanisms that control access to working memory. The current study examined the role of striatal dopamine in the AB, given its known role in regulating the contents of working memory. Specifically, participants performed an AB task and their basal level of dopamine D2-like receptor binding was measured using PET and [F-18]fallypride. As predicted, individual differences analyses showed that greater D2-like receptor binding in the striatum was associated with a larger AB, implicating striatal dopamine and mechanisms that control access to working memory in the AB. Specifically, we propose that striatal dopamine may determine the AB by regulating the threshold for working memory updating, providing a testable physiological basis for this deficit in gating rapidly changing visual information. A challenge for current models of the AB lies in connecting more directly to these neurobiological data.
The serotonin transporter (5-HTT) plays a critical role in regulating serotonergic neurotransmission and is implicated in the pathophysiology of anxiety and affective disorders. Positron emission tomography scans using [(11)C]DASB [(11)C]-3-amino-4-(2-dimethylaminomethylphenylsulfanyl)-benzonitrile] to measure 5-HTT availability (an index of receptor density and binding) were performed in 34 rhesus monkeys in which the relationship between regional brain glucose metabolism and anxious temperament was previously established. 5-HTT availability in the amygdalohippocampal area and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis correlated positively with individual differences in a behavioral and neuroendocrine composite of anxious temperament. 5-HTT availability also correlated positively with stress-induced metabolic activity within these regions. Collectively, these findings suggest that serotonergic modulation of neuronal excitability in the neural circuitry associated with anxiety mediates the developmental risk for affect-related psychopathology.
BACKGROUND: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system activation is adaptive in response to stress, and HPA dysregulation occurs in stress-related psychopathology. It is important to understand the mechanisms that modulate HPA output, yet few studies have addressed the neural circuitry associated with HPA regulation in primates and humans. Using high-resolution F-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) in rhesus monkeys, we assessed the relation between individual differences in brain activity and HPA function across multiple contexts that varied in stressfulness. METHODS: Using a logical AND conjunctions analysis, we assessed cortisol and brain metabolic activity with FDG-PET in 35 adolescent rhesus monkeys exposed to two threat and two home-cage conditions. To test the robustness of our findings, we used similar methods in an archival data set. In this data set, brain metabolic activity and cortisol were assessed in 17 adolescent male rhesus monkeys that were exposed to three stress-related contexts. RESULTS: Results from the two studies revealed that subgenual prefrontal cortex (PFC) metabolism (Brodmann's area 25/24) consistently predicted individual differences in plasma cortisol concentrations regardless of the context in which brain activity and cortisol were assessed. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that activation in subgenual PFC may be related to HPA output across a variety of contexts (including familiar settings and novel or threatening situations). Individuals prone to elevated subgenual PFC activity across multiple contexts may be individuals who consistently show heightened cortisol and may be at risk for stress-related HPA dysregulation.
Early theorists (Freud and Darwin) speculated that extremely shy children, or those with anxious temperament, were likely to have anxiety problems as adults. More recent studies demonstrate that these children have heightened responses to potentially threatening situations reacting with intense defensive responses that are characterized by behavioral inhibition (BI) (inhibited motor behavior and decreased vocalizations) and physiological arousal. Confirming the earlier impressions, data now demonstrate that children with this disposition are at increased risk to develop anxiety, depression, and comorbid substance abuse. Additional key features of anxious temperament are that it appears at a young age, it is a stable characteristic of individuals, and even in non-threatening environments it is associated with increased psychic anxiety and somatic tension. To understand the neural underpinnings of anxious temperament, we performed imaging studies with 18-fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG) high-resolution Positron Emission Tomography (PET) in young rhesus monkeys. Rhesus monkeys were used because they provide a well validated model of anxious temperament for studies that cannot be performed in human children. Imaging the same animal in stressful and secure contexts, we examined the relation between regional metabolic brain activity and a trait-like measure of anxious temperament that encompasses measures of BI and pituitary-adrenal reactivity. Regardless of context, results demonstrated a trait-like pattern of brain activity (amygdala, bed nucleus of stria terminalis, hippocampus, and periaqueductal gray) that is predictive of individual phenotypic differences. Importantly, individuals with extreme anxious temperament also displayed increased activity of this circuit when assessed in the security of their home environment. These findings suggest that increased activity of this circuit early in life mediates the childhood temperamental risk to develop anxiety and depression. In addition, the findings provide an explanation for why individuals with anxious temperament have difficulty relaxing in environments that others perceive as non-stressful.