JOURNAL ARTICLE

Abnormal amygdala and prefrontal cortex activation to facial expressions in pediatric bipolar disorder

Amy S Garrett, Allan L Reiss, Meghan E Howe, Ryan G Kelley, Manpreet K Singh, Nancy E Adleman, Asya Karchemskiy, Kiki D Chang
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2012, 51 (8): 821-31
22840553

OBJECTIVE: Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in pediatric bipolar disorder (BD) have reported greater amygdala and less dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activation to facial expressions compared to healthy controls. The current study investigates whether these differences are associated with the early or late phase of activation, suggesting different temporal characteristics of brain responses.

METHOD: A total of 20 euthymic adolescents with familial BD (14 male) and 21 healthy control subjects (13 male) underwent fMRI scanning during presentation of happy, sad, and neutral facial expressions. Whole-brain voxelwise analyses were conducted in SPM5, using a three-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with factors group (BD and healthy control [HC]), facial expression (happy, sad, and neutral versus scrambled), and phase (early and late, corresponding to the first and second half of each block of faces).

RESULTS: There were no significant group differences in task performance, age, gender, or IQ. Significant activation from the main effect of group included greater DLPFC activation in the HC group, and greater amygdala/hippocampal activation in the BD group. The interaction of Group × Phase identified clusters in the superior temporal sulcus/insula and visual cortex, where activation increased from the early to late phase of the block for the BD but not the HC group.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings are consistent with previous studies that suggest deficient prefrontal cortex regulation of heightened amygdala response to emotional stimuli in pediatric BD. Increasing activation over time in superior temporal and visual cortices suggests difficulty processing or disengaging attention from emotional faces in BD.

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