Neural responses to emotional stimuli are associated with childhood family stress.

TitleNeural responses to emotional stimuli are associated with childhood family stress.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsTaylor SE, Eisenberger NI, Saxbe D, Lehman BJ, Lieberman MD
JournalBiol Psychiatry
Date Published2006 Aug 1
KeywordsAdolescent, Adult, Amygdala, Analysis of Variance, Anger, Emotions, Facial Expression, Family, Fear, Female, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Prefrontal Cortex, Prospective Studies, Reaction Time, Reference Values, Risk Factors, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires

BACKGROUND: An early family environment marked by harsh parenting has been related to risk for multiple mental disorders in adulthood, risks that may be mediated, in part, by deficits in emotion regulation skills. This study examined neural mechanisms underlying these consequences of "risky" families (RF) by exploring neural activity to tasks involving responses to emotional stimuli.

METHODS: Participants completed an assessment of RF and participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigation that examined 1) amygdala reactivity to observation of fearful/angry faces; 2) amygdala and right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (RVLPFC) reactivity to labeling emotions displayed in these faces; and 3) the relation between RVLPFC and amygdala activity during the labeling task.

RESULTS: Offspring from nonrisky families showed expected amygdala reactivity to observing fearful/angry faces and expected activation of RVLPFC while labeling the emotions, which was significantly negatively correlated (-.44) with amygdala activation. Offspring from risky families showed little amygdala activation during the observation task and a strong positive correlation (+.66) between RVLPFC and amygdala activation in the labeling task, suggesting a possible dysregulation in the neural systems involved in responses to emotional stimuli.

CONCLUSIONS: Offspring from risky families exhibit atypical responses to emotional stimuli that are evident at the neural level.

Alternate JournalBiol. Psychiatry
PubMed ID16460697
Grant ListMH071521 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
MH56880 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
MH66709 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States