Anxiety and social deficits have distinct relationships with amygdala function in autism spectrum disorder.

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TitleAnxiety and social deficits have distinct relationships with amygdala function in autism spectrum disorder.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsHerrington, JD, Miller, JS, Pandey, J, Schultz, RT
JournalSoc Cogn Affect Neurosci
Volume11
Issue6
Pagination907-14
Date Published2016 06
ISSN1749-5024
KeywordsAdolescent, Amygdala, Anxiety, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Child, Emotions, Facial Recognition, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Social Perception
Abstract

Current neural models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and anxiety disorders suggest hyperactivation of amygdala in anxiety, but hypoactivation of amygdala in ASD. The objectives of this study were to (i) test the hypothesis that amygdala activity measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) represents a hybrid signal of opposing social functions and anxiety symptoms, and (ii) determine whether longstanding findings of decreased amygdala activation in ASD apply only to those individuals with ASD and low levels of anxiety. During fMRI scanning, 81 youth with ASD and 67 non-ASD control participants completed a face recognition paradigm that elicits robust amygdala activation. Only individuals with ASD and low anxiety levels (a subsample of 28 participants) showed decreased amygdala activation relative to controls. In the ASD group, anxiety symptoms were positively correlated with amygdala activity across the full ASD group, whereas core ASD symptoms (including social deficits) were negatively correlated. Results indicate that hypoactivation of amygdala in ASD, a suggestive finding first reported nearly 20 years ago, can be masked by comorbid anxiety-thus bringing enhanced clarity to this line of work. Amygdala activity represents a hybrid signal of emotion and social processes that cannot be reduced to either alone.

DOI10.1093/scan/nsw015
Alternate JournalSoc Cogn Affect Neurosci
PubMed ID26865425
PubMed Central IDPMC4884314
Grant ListR01 MH073084 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
RC1 MH088791 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
U54 HD086984 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
P30 HD026979 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
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