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Pre-diagnostic deficits in social motivation are hypothesized to contribute to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a heritable neurodevelopmental condition. We evaluated psychometric properties of a social motivation index (SMI) using parent-report item-level data from 597 participants in a prospective cohort of infant siblings at high and low familial risk for ASD. We tested whether lower SMI scores at 6, 12, and 24 months were associated with a 24-month ASD diagnosis and whether social motivation’s course differed relative to familial ASD liability. The SMI displayed good internal consistency and temporal stability. Children diagnosed with ASD displayed lower mean SMI T-scores at all ages and a decrease in mean T-scores across age. Lower group-level 6-month scores corresponded with higher familial ASD liability. Among high-risk infants, strong decline in SMI T-scores was associated with 10-fold odds of diagnosis. Infant social motivation is quantifiable by parental report, differentiates children with versus without later ASD by age 6 months, and tracks with familial ASD liability, consistent with a diagnostic and susceptibility marker of ASD. Early decrements and decline in social motivation indicate increased likelihood of ASD, highlighting social motivation’s importance to risk assessment and clarification of the ontogeny of ASD.
Firefighters are routinely exposed to various traumatic events and often experience a range of trauma-related symptoms. Although these repeated traumatic exposures rarely progress to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, firefighters are still considered to be a vulnerable population with regard to trauma.
To investigate how the human brain responds to or compensates for the repeated experience of traumatic stress.
We included 98 healthy firefighters with repeated traumatic experiences but without any diagnosis of mental illness and 98 non-firefighter healthy individuals without any history of trauma. Functional connectivity within the fear circuitry, which consists of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, insula, amygdala, hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), was examined using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Trauma-related symptoms were evaluated using the Impact of Event Scale – Revised.
The firefighter group had greater functional connectivity between the insula and several regions of the fear circuitry including the bilateral amygdalae, bilateral hippocampi and vmPFC as compared with healthy individuals. In the firefighter group, stronger insula–amygdala connectivity was associated with greater severity of trauma-related symptoms (β = 0.36, P = 0.005), whereas higher insula–vmPFC connectivity was related to milder symptoms in response to repeated trauma (β = −0.28, P = 0.01).
The current findings suggest an active involvement of insular functional connectivity in response to repeated traumatic stress. Functional connectivity of the insula in relation to the amygdala and vmPFC may be potential pathways that underlie the risk for and resilience to repeated traumatic stress, respectively.
A summary of the Third International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Conference proceedings on neuroimaging research and neurocircuitry models of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is presented. This survey of recent and ongoing research indicates that a wide range of modern techniques and experimental strategies are being employed in a complementary fashion to enhance our understanding of OCD. Imaging studies in animal models of OCD are helping to elaborate relevant normal anatomy and neuro-chemistry. Functional imaging methods are being employed in conjunction with behavioral, pharmacologic, and cognitive challenge paradigms. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy as well as radiotracer methods are being utilized to measure neurochemical and neuropharmacologic indices in OCD. Transcranial magnetic stimulation has emerged as a tool for probing neurocircuitry that may also have therapeutic potential. Experimental designs and data-analytic methods are evolving to help elucidate the pathophysiology of OCD and related disorders, delineate neurobiologically meaningful subtypes of OCD, and identify potential predictors of treatment response. Collectively, these efforts promise important advances as we approach the new millennium.
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