Thickness of ventromedial prefrontal cortex in humans is correlated with extinction memory.

Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.81). 07/2005; 102(30):10706-11. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0502441102
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) has been implicated in fear extinction [Phelps, E. A., Delgado, M. R., Nearing, K. I. & Ledoux, J. E. (2004) Neuron 43, 897-905; Herry, C. & Garcia, R. (2003) Behav. Brain Res. 146, 89-96]. Here, we test the hypothesis that the cortical thickness of vmPFC regions is associated with how well healthy humans retain their extinction memory a day after having been conditioned and then extinguished. Fourteen participants underwent a 2-day fear conditioning and extinction protocol. The conditioned stimuli (CSs) were pictures of virtual lights, and the unconditioned stimulus (US) was an electric shock. On day 1, participants received 5 CS+US pairings (conditioning), followed by 10 CS trials with no US (extinction). On day 2, the CS was presented alone to test for extinction memory. Skin conductance response (SCR) was the behavioral index of conditioning and extinction. Participants underwent MRI scans to obtain structural images, from which cortical thickness was measured. We performed a vertex-based analysis across the entire cortical surface and a region-of-interest analysis of a priori hypothesized territories to measure cortical thickness and map correlations between this measure and SCR. We found significant, direct correlation between thickness of the vmPFC, specifically medial orbitofrontal cortex, and extinction retention. That is, thicker medial orbitofrontal cortex was associated with lower SCR to the conditioned stimulus during extinction recall (i.e., greater extinction memory). These results suggest that the size of the vmPFC might explain individual differences in the ability to modulate fear among humans.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The human brain responds both before and during the application of aversive stimuli. Anticipation allows the organism to prepare its nociceptive system to respond adequately to the subsequent stimulus. The context in which an uncomfortable stimulus is experienced may also influence neural processing. Uncertainty of occurrence, timing and intensity of an aversive event may lead to increased anticipatory anxiety, fear, physiological arousal and sensory perception. We aimed to identify, in healthy volunteers, the effects of uncertainty in the anticipation of uncomfortable rectal distension, and the impact of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and anxiety-related psychological variables on neural mechanisms of anticipation of rectal distension using fMRI. Barostat-controlled uncomfortable rectal distensions were preceded by cued uncertain or certain anticipation in 15 healthy volunteers in a fMRI protocol at 3T. Electrocardiographic data were concurrently registered by MR scanner. The low frequency (LF)-component of the heart rate variability (HRV) time-series was extracted and inserted as a regressor in the fMRI model ('LF-HRV model'). The impact of ANS activity was analyzed by comparing the fMRI signal in the 'standard model' and in the 'LF-HRV model' across the different anticipation and distension conditions. The scores of the psychological questionnaires and the rating of perceived anticipatory anxiety were included as covariates in the fMRI data analysis. Our experiments led to the following key findings: 1) the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) is the only activation site that relates to uncertainty in healthy volunteers and is directly correlated to individual questionnaire score for pain-related anxiety; 2) uncertain anticipation of rectal distension involved several relevant brain regions, namely activation of sgACC and medial prefrontal cortex and deactivation of amygdala, insula, thalamus, secondary somatosensory cortex, supplementary motor area and cerebellum; 3) most of the brain activity during anticipation, but not distension, is associated with activity of the central autonomic network. This approach could be applied to study the ANS impact on brain activity in various pathological conditions, namely in patients with chronic digestive conditions characterized by visceral discomfort and ANS imbalance such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel diseases. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    NeuroImage 12/2014; 107. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.11.043 · 6.13 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background Although several functional imaging studies have demonstrated that behavior therapy (BT) modifies the neural circuits involved in the pathogenesis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the structural abnormalities underlying BT-resistant OCD remain unknown. Methods In this study, we examined the existence of regional structural abnormalities in both the gray matter and the white matter of patients with OCD at baseline using voxel-based morphometry in responders (n=24) and nonresponders (n=15) to subsequent BT. Three-dimensional T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging was performed before the completion of 12 weeks of BT. Results Relative to the responders, the nonresponders exhibited significantly smaller gray matter volumes in the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the right orbitofrontal cortex, the right precentral gyrus, and the left anterior cingulate cortex. In addition, relative to the responders, the nonresponders exhibited significantly smaller white matter volumes in the left cingulate bundle and the left superior frontal white matter. Conclusion These results suggest that the brain structures in several areas, including the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and cingulate bundles, are related to the lack of a response to BT in patients with OCD. The use of a voxel-based morphometry approach may be advantageous to understanding differences in brain abnormalities between responders and nonresponders to BT.
    Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 10/2014; 10:1987-96. DOI:10.2147/NDT.S69652 · 2.15 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Learning and memory for extinction of conditioned fear is a basic mammalian mechanism for regulating negative emotion. Sleep promotes both the consolidation of memory and the regulation of emotion. Sleep can influence consolidation and modification of memories associated with both fear and its extinction. After brief overviews of the behavior and neural circuitry associated with fear conditioning, extinction learning, and extinction memory in the rodent and human, interactions of sleep with these processes will be examined. Animal and human studies suggest that sleep can serve to consolidate both fear and extinction memory. In humans, sleep also promotes generalization of extinction memory. Time-of-day effects on extinction learning and generalization are also seen. Rapid eye movement (REM) may be a sleep stage of particular importance for the consolidation of both fear and extinction memory as evidenced by selective REM deprivation experiments. REM sleep is accompanied by selective activation of the same limbic structures implicated in the learning and memory of fear and extinction. Preliminary evidence also suggests extinction learning can take place during slow wave sleep. Study of low-level processes such as conditioning, extinction, and habituation may allow sleep effects on emotional memory to be identified and inform study of sleep's effects on more complex, emotionally salient declarative memories. Anxiety disorders are marked by impairments of both sleep and extinction memory. Improving sleep quality may ameliorate anxiety disorders by strengthening naturally acquired extinction. Strategically timed sleep may be used to enhance treatment of anxiety by strengthening therapeutic extinction learned via exposure therapy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Psychological Bulletin 04/2015; DOI:10.1037/bul0000014 · 14.39 Impact Factor


Available from