Time-varying amygdala response to emotional faces in generalized social phobia

Darren W Campbell, Jitender Sareen, Martin P Paulus, Philippe R Goldin, Murray B Stein, Jeffrey P Reiss
Biological Psychiatry 2007 September 1, 62 (5): 455-63

BACKGROUND: Individuals with social phobia (SP) have altered behavioral and neural responses to emotional faces and are hypothesized to have deficits in inhibiting emotion-related amygdala responses. We tested for such amygdala deficits to emotional faces in a sample of individuals with SP.

METHOD: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural substrates of emotional face processing in 14 generalized SP (gSP) and 14 healthy comparison (HC) participants. Analyses focused on the temporal dynamics of the amygdala, prefrontal cortex (PFC), and fusiform face area (FFA) across blocks of neutral, fear, contempt, anger, and happy faces in gSP versus HC participants.

RESULTS: Amygdala responses in participants with gSP occurred later than the HC participants to fear, angry, and happy faces. Parallel PFC responses were found for happy and fear faces. There were no group differences in temporal response patterns in the FFA.

CONCLUSIONS: This finding might reflect a neural correlate of atypical orienting responses among individuals with gSP. Commonly reported SP deficits in habituation might reflect neural regions associated with emotional self-evaluations rather than the amygdala. This study highlights the importance of considering time-varying modulation when examining emotion-related processing in individuals with gSP.

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