Interactions Between Transient and Sustained Neural Signals Support the Generation and Regulation of Anxious Emotion

Leah H. Somerville, Dylan D. Wagner, Gagan S. Wig, Joseph M. Moran, Paul J. Whalen, William M. Kelley
2012 Cerebral Cortex  
Anxious emotion can manifest on brief (threat response) and/or persistent (chronic apprehension and arousal) timescales, and prior work has suggested that these signals are supported by separable neural circuitries. This fMRI study utilized a mixed block-event-related emotional provocation paradigm in 55 healthy participants to simultaneously measure brief and persistent anxious emotional responses, testing the specificity of, and interactions between, these potentially distinct systems.
more » ... indicated that components of emotional processing networks were uniquely sensitive to transient and sustained anxious emotion. Whereas the amygdala and midbrain showed only transient responses, the ventral basal forebrain and anterior insula showed sustained activity during extended emotional contexts that tracked positively with taskevoked anxiety. States of lesser anxiety were associated with greater sustained activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, ventromedial prefrontal recruitment was lower in individuals with higher scores on intolerance of uncertainty measures, and this hyporecruitment predicted greater transient amygdala responding to potential threat cues. This work demonstrates how brain circuitries interact across temporal scales to support brief and persistent anxious emotion and suggests potentially divergent mechanisms of dysregulation in clinical syndromes marked by brief versus persistent symptoms of anxiety.
doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr373 pmid:22250290 pmcid:PMC3513951 fatcat:fqvugo2okzfebgg6l6oy7tnhs4