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Development of White Matter Microstructure and Intrinsic Functional Connectivity between the Amygdala and Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex: Associations with Anxiety and Depression
Jalbrzikowski M, Larsen B, Hallquist MN, Forana W, Calabro F and Luna B
Biological Psychiatry, Published Online 2017

Connectivity between the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is compromised in multiple psychiatric disorders, many of which emerge during adolescence. To identify what extent the deviations in amygdala-vmPFC maturation contribute to the onset of psychiatric disorders, it is essential to characterize amygdala-vmPFC subregion connectivity changes during typical development.

Dr. Maria Jalbrzikowski used an accelerated cohort longitudinal design (1-3 time points, 10-25 years, N=246) to characterize developmental changes of amygdala-vmPFC subregion functional and structural connectivity using resting state fMRI and diffusion-weighted imaging.Dr. Jalbrzikowski and her colleagues found that functional connectivity between the centromedial amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate (rACC), anterior vmPFC, and subgenual cingulate significantly decreased from late childhood to early adulthood in males and females. The investigators also observed age associated decreases between the basolateral amygdala and rACC. These findings were replicated in a separate cohort (10-22 years, N=327). Similarly, structural connectivity, as measured by quantitative anisotropy, significantly decreased with age in the same regions. Functional connectivity between the centromedial amygdala and rACC was associated with structural connectivity in these same regions during early adulthood (ages 22-25). In addition to these findings, a novel time-varying coefficient analysis that showed that increased centromedial amygdala-rACC functional connectivity was associated with greater anxiety and depression symptoms during early adulthood, while increased structural connectivity in centromedial amygdala-anterior vmPFC white matter was associated with greater anxiety/depression during late childhood.

Findings from this study illustrate that specific developmental periods of functional and structural connectivity between amygdala-prefrontal systems may contribute to the emergence of anxiety and depressive symptoms, and may play a critical role in the emergence of psychiatric disorders in adolescence.

Maria Jalbrzikowski, PhD, William Foran, MD, Finnegan Calabro, PhD and Beatriz Luna, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine)

Bart Larsen, BA (Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh)

Michael N. Hallquist, PhD (Department of Psychology, Penn State University)

This story appeared in the journal Biological Psychiatry.  Click here to view the abstract.