[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Under typical conditions, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connections with the amygdala are immature during childhood and become adult-like during adolescence. Rodent models show that maternal deprivation accelerates this development, prompting examination of human amygdala-mPFC phenotypes following maternal deprivation. Previously institutionalized youths, who experienced early maternal deprivation, exhibited atypical amygdala-mPFC connectivity. Specifically, unlike the immature connectivity (positive amygdala-mPFC coupling) of comparison children, children with a history of early adversity evidenced mature connectivity (negative amygdala-mPFC coupling) and thus, resembled the adolescent phenotype. This connectivity pattern was mediated by the hormone cortisol, suggesting that stress-induced modifications of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis shape amygdala-mPFC circuitry. Despite being age-atypical, negative amygdala-mPFC coupling conferred some degree of reduced anxiety, although anxiety was still significantly higher in the previously institutionalized group. These findings suggest that accelerated amygdala-mPFC development is an ontogenetic adaptation in response to early adversity.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Decision-making can be broken down into several component processes: assigning values to stimuli under consideration, selecting an option by comparing those values, and initiating motor responses to obtain the reward. Although much is known about the neural encoding of stimulus values and motor commands, little is known about the mechanisms through which stimulus values are compared, and the resulting decision is transmitted to motor systems. We investigated this process using human fMRI in a task where choices were indicated using the left or right hand. We found evidence consistent with the hypothesis that value signals are computed in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, they are passed to regions of dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus, implementing a comparison process, and the output of the comparator regions modulates activity in motor cortex to implement the choice. These results describe the network through which stimulus values are transformed into actions during a simple choice task.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2011; 108(44):18120-5. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Attention is thought to play a key role in the computation of stimulus values at the time of choice, which suggests that attention manipulations could be used to improve decision-making in domains where self-control lapses are pervasive. We used an fMRI food choice task with non-dieting human subjects to investigate whether exogenous cues that direct attention to the healthiness of foods could improve dietary choices. Behaviorally, we found that subjects made healthier choices in the presence of health cues. In parallel, stimulus value signals in ventromedial prefrontal cortex were more responsive to the healthiness of foods in the presence of health cues, and this effect was modulated by activity in regions of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest that the neural mechanisms used in successful self-control can be activated by exogenous attention cues, and provide insights into the processes through which behavioral therapies and public policies could facilitate self-control.
Journal of Neuroscience 07/2011; 31(30):11077-87. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Emotion discrimination, emotion regulation, and cognitive control are three related, yet separable processes that emerge over the course of development. The current study tested 100 children, adolescents, and adults on an Emotional Go/Nogo task, illustrating the ability of this paradigm to identify the unique developmental patterns for each of these three processes in the context of both positive (happy) and negative emotions (fear, sad, and anger), across three different age groups. Consistent with previous literature, our findings show that emotion discrimination and regulatory abilities (both cognitive control and emotion regulation) improve steadily for each age group, with each age group showing unique patterns of performance. The findings suggest that emotion regulation is constructed from basic cognition control and emotion discrimination skills. The patterns of behavior from the Emotional Go/Nogo task provide normative benchmark data across a wide range of emotions that can be used for future behavioral and neuroimaging studies that examine the developmental construction of emotion regulatory processes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Little is known about the neural networks supporting value computation during complex social decisions. We investigated this question using functional magnetic resonance imaging while subjects made donations to different charities. We found that the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal in ventral medial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) correlated with the subjective value of voluntary donations. Furthermore, the region of the VMPFC identified showed considerable overlap with regions that have been shown to encode for the value of basic rewards at the time of choice, suggesting that it might serve as a common valuation system during decision making. In addition, functional connectivity analyses indicated that the value signal in VMPFC might integrate inputs from networks, including the anterior insula and posterior superior temporal cortex, that are thought to be involved in social cognition.
Journal of Neuroscience 01/2010; 30(2):583-90. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Early adversity, for example poor caregiving, can have profound effects on emotional development. Orphanage rearing, even in the best circumstances, lies outside of the bounds of a species-typical caregiving environment. The long-term effects of this early adversity on the neurobiological development associated with socio-emotional behaviors are not well understood. Seventy-eight children, who include those who have experienced orphanage care and a comparison group, were assessed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure volumes of whole brain and limbic structures (e.g. amygdala, hippocampus). Emotion regulation was assessed with an emotional go-nogo paradigm, and anxiety and internalizing behaviors were assessed using the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders, the Child Behavior Checklist, and a structured clinical interview. Late adoption was associated with larger corrected amygdala volumes, poorer emotion regulation, and increased anxiety. Although more than 50% of the children who experienced orphanage rearing met criteria for a psychiatric disorder, with a third having an anxiety disorder, the group differences observed in amygdala volume were not driven by the presence of an anxiety disorder. The findings are consistent with previous reports describing negative effects of prolonged orphanage care on emotional behavior and with animal models that show long-term changes in the amygdala and emotional behavior following early postnatal stress. These changes in limbic circuitry may underlie residual emotional and social problems experienced by children who have been internationally adopted.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A set of face stimuli called the NimStim Set of Facial Expressions is described. The goal in creating this set was to provide facial expressions that untrained individuals, characteristic of research participants, would recognize. This set is large in number, multiracial, and available to the scientific community online. The results of psychometric evaluations of these stimuli are presented. The results lend empirical support for the validity and reliability of this set of facial expressions as determined by accurate identification of expressions and high intra-participant agreement across two testing sessions, respectively.
Psychiatry Research 07/2009; 168(3):242-9. · 2.46 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Every day, individuals make dozens of choices between an alternative with higher overall value and a more tempting but ultimately inferior option. Optimal decision-making requires self-control. We propose two hypotheses about the neurobiology of self-control: (i) Goal-directed decisions have their basis in a common value signal encoded in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), and (ii) exercising self-control involves the modulation of this value signal by dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor brain activity while dieters engaged in real decisions about food consumption. Activity in vmPFC was correlated with goal values regardless of the amount of self-control. It incorporated both taste and health in self-controllers but only taste in non-self-controllers. Activity in DLPFC increased when subjects exercised self-control and correlated with activity in vmPFC.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An increasing body of evidence suggests that the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) is engaged in both incentive reward processes and in adaptive responses to conditioned and unconditioned aversive stimuli. Yet, it has been argued that NAcc activation to aversive stimuli may be a consequence of the rewarding effects of their termination, i.e., relief. To address this question we used fMRI to delineate brain response to the onset and offset of unpleasant and pleasant auditory stimuli in the absence of learning or motor response. Increased NAcc activity was seen for the onset of both pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. Our results support the expanded bivalent view of NAcc function and call for expansion of current models of NAcc function that are solely focused on reward.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To make sound economic decisions, the brain needs to compute several different value-related signals. These include goal values that measure the predicted reward that results from the outcome generated by each of the actions under consideration, decision values that measure the net value of taking the different actions, and prediction errors that measure deviations from individuals' previous reward expectations. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a novel decision-making paradigm to dissociate the neural basis of these three computations. Our results show that they are supported by different neural substrates: goal values are correlated with activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, decision values are correlated with activity in the central orbitofrontal cortex, and prediction errors are correlated with activity in the ventral striatum.
Journal of Neuroscience 06/2008; 28(22):5623-30. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adolescence is a transition period from childhood to adulthood that is often characterized by emotional instability. This period is also a time of increased incidence of anxiety and depression, underscoring the importance of understanding biological substrates of behavioral and emotion regulation during adolescence. Developmental changes in the brain in concert with individual predispositions for anxiety might underlie the increased risk for poor outcomes reported during adolescence. We tested the hypothesis that difficulties in regulating behavior in emotional contexts in adolescents might be due to competition between heightened activity in subcortical emotional processing systems and immature top-down prefrontal systems. Individual differences in emotional reactivity might put some teens at greater risk during this sensitive transition in development.
We examined the association between emotion regulation and frontoamygdala circuitry in 60 children, adolescents, and adults with an emotional go-nogo paradigm. We went beyond examining the magnitude of neural activity and focused on neural adaptation within this circuitry across time with functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Adolescents showed exaggerated amygdala activity relative to children and adults. This age-related difference decreased with repeated exposures to the stimuli, and individual differences in self-ratings of anxiety predicted the extent of adaptation or habituation in amygdala. Individuals with higher trait anxiety showed less habituation over repeated exposures. This failure to habituate was associated with less functional connectivity between ventral prefrontal cortex and amygdala.
These findings suggest that exaggerated emotional reactivity during adolescence might increase the need for top-down control and put individuals with less control at greater risk for poor outcomes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by suboptimal decisions and actions that are associated with an increased incidence of unintentional injuries, violence, substance abuse, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Traditional neurobiological and cognitive explanations for adolescent behavior have failed to account for the nonlinear changes in behavior observed during adolescence, relative to both childhood and adulthood. This review provides a biologically plausible model of the neural mechanisms underlying these nonlinear changes in behavior. We provide evidence from recent human brain imaging and animal studies that there is a heightened responsiveness to incentives and socioemotional contexts during this time, when impulse control is still relatively immature. These findings suggest differential development of bottom-up limbic systems, implicated in incentive and emotional processing, to top-down control systems during adolescence as compared to childhood and adulthood. This developmental pattern may be exacerbated in those adolescents prone to emotional reactivity, increasing the likelihood of poor outcomes.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 04/2008; 1124:111-26. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study examined whether ventral frontostriatal regions differentially code expected and unexpected reward outcomes. We parametrically manipulated the probability of reward and examined the neural response to reward and nonreward for each probability condition in the ventral striatum and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). By late trials of the experiment, subjects showed slower behavioral responses for the condition with the lowest probability of reward, relative to the condition with the highest probability of reward. At the neural level, both the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and OFC showed greater activation to rewarded relative to nonrewarded trials, but the accumbens appeared to be most sensitive to violations in expected reward outcomes. These data suggest distinct roles for frontostriatal circuitry in reward prediction and in responding to violations in expectations.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adolescence has been characterized by risk-taking behaviors that can lead to fatal outcomes. This study examined the neurobiological development of neural systems implicated in reward-seeking behaviors. Thirty-seven participants (7-29 years of age) were scanned using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging and a paradigm that parametrically manipulated reward values. The results show exaggerated accumbens activity, relative to prefrontal activity in adolescents, compared with children and adults, which appeared to be driven by different time courses of development for these regions. Accumbens activity in adolescents looked like that of adults in both extent of activity and sensitivity to reward values, although the magnitude of activity was exaggerated. In contrast, the extent of orbital frontal cortex activity in adolescents looked more like that of children than adults, with less focal patterns of activity. These findings suggest that maturing subcortical systems become disproportionately activated relative to later maturing top-down control systems, biasing the adolescent's action toward immediate over long-term gains.
Journal of Neuroscience 07/2006; 26(25):6885-92. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The conflict-monitoring hypothesis posits that anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) monitors conflict in information processing and recruits dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) to resolve competition as needed. We used fMRI to test this prediction directly in the context of a task-switching paradigm, in which subjects responded to the color or the motion of a visual stimulus. Conflict was indexed in terms of the product of activities in areas specialized for color or motion processing on a trial-by-trial basis. Here, we report that ACC and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) were sensitive to distinct forms of conflict, at the level of the response and the stimulus representation, respectively. Activity in PPC preceded increased activity in DLPFC and predicted enhanced behavioral performance on subsequent trials. These findings suggest that ACC and PPC may act in concert to detect dissociable forms of conflict and signal to DLPFC the need for increased control.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study examined changes in behavior and neural activity with reward learning. Using an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm, we show that the nucleus accumbens, thalamus, and orbital frontal cortex are each sensitive to reward magnitude, with the accumbens showing the greatest discrimination between reward values. Mean reaction times were significantly faster to cues predicting the greatest reward and slower to cues predicting the smallest reward. This behavioral change over the course of the experiment was paralleled by a shift in peak in accumbens activity from anticipation of the reward (immediately after the response), to the cue predicting the reward. The orbitofrontal and thalamic regions peaked in anticipation of the reward throughout the experiment. Our findings suggest discrete functions of regions within basal ganglia thalamocortical circuitry in adjusting behavior to maximize reward.
Journal of Neuroscience 10/2005; 25(38):8650-6. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been just under a decade since contemporary neuroimaging tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, were first applied to developmental questions. These tools provide invaluable information on how brain anatomy, function and connectivity change during development. Studies using these methods with children and adolescents show that brain regions that support motor and sensory function mature earliest, whereas higher-order association areas, such as the prefrontal cortex, which integrate these functions, mature later.
Current Opinion in Neurobiology 05/2005; 15(2):239-44. · 7.34 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Emotional information can facilitate or interfere with cognitive processes. In this study, we examined the influence of emotional information in biasing performance and the biological basis underlying this influence.
Ten human subjects (five female) were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing an emotional go/nogo task.
Subjects were slower to approach fearful target expressions and had more difficulty avoiding happy nontarget expressions. The amygdala was recruited most for negative emotional context, and activity in this region was positively correlated with response time when detecting negative expressions. Increased signal in the right caudate nucleus was observed when avoiding nontargets and was negatively correlated with the number of false alarms subjects made.
Emotional context can alter behavioral and biological responses when approaching or avoiding a stimulus. We showed that recruitment of the amygdala, a region implicated in evaluating emotional significance, was associated with longer response latencies when approaching negative information, whereas recruitment of the caudate nucleus, a structure previously implicated in reward and impulse control, was most active when avoiding positive information. Our findings have significant implications for exaggerated and inhibited emotional responses that are characteristic of a number of psychiatric disorders.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cognitive control has been described and referred to over the years by different terminology including "controlled processing", "central executive" and "attentional bias". We present behavioral and neuroimaging experimental investigations of this psychological construct reflecting top-down control in overriding inappropriate thoughts, actions, and emotions. The ability to override competing actions and emotions is a key component of cognitive and social functioning and at the core of a child's development. We show in a series of behavioral and imaging studies that the development of frontostriatal and frontoamygdala circuitry may underlie mature cognitive and affective control.