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Behavioral inhibition (BI) is a temperament identified in early childhood that is associated with risk for anxiety disorders, yet only about half of behaviorally inhibited children manifest anxiety later in life. We compared brain function and behavior during extinction recall in a sample of nonanxious young adults characterized in childhood with BI (n = 22) or with no BI (n = 28). Three weeks after undergoing fear conditioning and extinction, participants completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging extinction recall task assessing memory and threat differentiation for conditioned stimuli. While self-report and psychophysiological measures of differential conditioning and extinction were similar across groups, BI-related differences in brain function emerged during extinction recall. Childhood BI was associated with greater activation in subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in response to cues signaling safety. This pattern of results may reflect neural correlates that promote resilience against anxiety in a temperamentally at-risk population.
Introduction: Recently, human studies using exposure therapy to treat anxiety have demonstrated that pretreatment with D-cycloserine (DCS) enhances fear reduction in anxiety disorders. However, the underlying brain mechanisms mediating this fear reduction have yet to be determined.
Methods: The effects of orally administered DCS on amygdala activity during the processing of repeated facial expressions were examined in this double-blind study. Fourteen healthy males (30.0±8.7 years of age) randomly received DCS 500 mg or placebo prior to 3.0 Tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging acquisition. All participants viewed four separate runs, consisting of a single block of a repeated facial expression (happy or fearful) bracketed by fixation blocks.
Results: Anatomic region-of-interest analyses showed that the placebo group exhibited amygdala activation and response habituation, while the DCS group displayed blunted amygdala responses to emotional faces across the experiment, whereby habituation was not detected.
Conclusion: This finding may have relevance for testing treatments of anxiety and depression.
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