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Individuals with bipolar disorder (BD) show aberrant brain activation patterns during reward and loss anticipation. We examined for the first time longitudinal changes in brain activation during win and loss anticipation to identify trait markers of aberrant anticipatory processing in BD.
Thirty-four euthymic and depressed individuals with BD-I and 17 healthy controls (HC) were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging twice 6 months apart during a reward task.
HC, but not individuals with BD, showed longitudinal reductions in the right lateral occipital cortex (RLOC) activation during processing of cues predicting possible money loss (p-corrected <0.05). This result was not affected by psychotropic medication, mood state or the changes in depression/mania severity between the two scans in BD. Elevated symptoms of subthreshold hypo/mania at baseline predicted more aberrant longitudinal patterns of RLOC activation explaining 12.5% of variance in individuals with BD.
Increased activation in occipital cortex during negative outcome anticipation may be related to elevated negative emotional arousal during anticipatory cue processing. One interpretation is that, unlike HC, individuals with BD were not able to learn at baseline that monetary losses were smaller than monetary gains and were not able to reduce emotional arousal for negative cues 6 months later. Future research in BD should examine how modulating occipital cortical activation affects learning from experience in individuals with BD.
Trauma exposure is associated with development of depression and anxiety; yet, some individuals are resilient to these trauma-associated effects. Differentiating mechanisms underlying development of negative affect and resilience following trauma is critical for developing effective interventions. One pathway through which trauma could exert its effects on negative affect is reward-learning networks. In this study, we examined relationships among lifetime trauma, reward-learning network function, and emotional states in young adults.
One hundred eleven young adults self-reported trauma and emotional states and underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a monetary reward task. Trauma-associated neural activation and functional connectivity were analyzed during reward prediction error (RPE). Relationships between trauma-associated neural functioning and affective and anxiety symptoms were examined.
Number of traumatic events was associated with greater ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) activation, and lower vACC connectivity with the right insula, frontopolar, inferior parietal, and temporoparietal regions, during RPE. Lower trauma-associated vACC connectivity with frontoparietal regions implicated in regulatory and decision-making processes was associated with heightened affective and anxiety symptoms; lower vACC connectivity with insular regions implicated in interoception was associated with lower affective and anxiety symptoms.
In a young adult sample, two pathways linked the impact of trauma on reward-learning networks with higher v. lower negative affective and anxiety symptoms. The disconnection between vACC and regions implicated in decision-making and self-referential processes may reflect aberrant regulatory but appropriate self-focused mechanisms, respectively, conferring risk for v. resilience against negative affective and anxiety symptoms.
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