Immature integration and segregation of emotion-related brain circuitry in young children

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94304, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 04/2012; 109(20):7941-6. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1120408109
Source: PubMed


The human brain undergoes protracted development, with dramatic changes in expression and regulation of emotion from childhood to adulthood. The amygdala is a brain structure that plays a pivotal role in emotion-related functions. Investigating developmental characteristics of the amygdala and associated functional circuits in children is important for understanding how emotion processing matures in the developing brain. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) and centromedial amygdala (CMA) are two major amygdalar nuclei that contribute to distinct functions via their unique pattern of interactions with cortical and subcortical regions. Almost nothing is currently known about the maturation of functional circuits associated with these amygdala nuclei in the developing brain. Using intrinsic connectivity analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data, we investigated developmental changes in functional connectivity of the BLA and CMA in twenty-four 7- to 9-y-old typically developing children compared with twenty-four 19- to 22-y-old healthy adults. Children showed significantly weaker intrinsic functional connectivity of the amygdala with subcortical, paralimbic, and limbic structures, polymodal association, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Importantly, target networks associated with the BLA and CMA exhibited greater overlap and weaker dissociation in children. In line with this finding, children showed greater intraamygdala connectivity between the BLA and CMA. Critically, these developmental differences were reproducibly identified in a second independent cohort of adults and children. Taken together, our findings point toward weak integration and segregation of amygdala circuits in young children. These immature patterns of amygdala connectivity have important implications for understanding typical and atypical development of emotion-related brain circuitry.

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Available from: Shaozheng Qin, Oct 04, 2015
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    • "Because FHN youth displayed mostly positive synchrony between these regions, which was unrelated to task performance, these findings could indicate that once connectivity is established in these regions, it may no longer aberrantly affect behavior. Given discrepancies between children and adults reported in the typical patterns of positive and negative functional connectivity between the amygdala and the frontal lobe (Qin et al. 2012; Roy et al. 2009), more work is needed to determine how the integrity of fronto-limbic circuitry is related to risk for alcoholism. "
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    • "Resting-state functional connectivity (FC) analysis has emerged as a powerful systems-level approach for uncovering key features of large-scale intrinsic functional networks associated with cognitive and affective functions (Greicius et al., 2003; Fox and Raichle, 2007; Bressler and Menon, 2010; Qin et al., 2012). Since its first use for mapping the somatomotor system (Biswal et al., 1995), intrinsic FC analysis has been used to characterize multiple brain systems, including those involved in sensory processing, language, emotion, and attention (Lowe et al., 1998; Hampson et al., 2002; Greicius et al., 2003; Fox et al., 2006). "
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    • "The fact that remarkable maturation process of the brain's affective and social systems spans from childhood to adulthood and that social cognitive skills need extensive tuning during development may explain why ASD and other developmental disorders are often associated with pervasive social skill impairments (Kennedy & Adolphs, 2012). To our knowledge, only one study has looked at age-related changes in AMG connectivity and showed drastic changes in the intrinsic functional connectivity of the basolateral nucleus of the AMG with the sensorimotor cortex, with weaker integration and segregation of AMG connectivity in 7–9-year-old healthy children as compared to 19–22-year-old young adults (Qin et al., 2012). Also, Greimel et al. (2012) recently demonstrated that agerelated changes in gray matter volume in the AMG, temporoparietal junction, and PM differed in ASD as compared to typically developing participants. "
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