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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.
Behavioral inhibition, a temperament identifiable in infancy, is associated with heightened withdrawal from social encounters. Prior studies raise particular interest in the striatum, which responds uniquely to monetary gains in behaviorally inhibited children followed into adolescence. Although behavioral manifestations of inhibition are expressed primarily in the social domain, it remains unclear whether observed striatal alterations to monetary incentives also extend to social contexts. In the current study, imaging data were acquired from 39 participants (17 males, 22 females; ages 16–18 years) characterized since infancy on measures of behavioral inhibition. A social evaluation task was used to assess neural response to anticipation and receipt of positive and negative feedback from novel peers, classified by participants as being of high or low interest. As with monetary rewards, striatal response patterns differed during both anticipation and receipt of social reward between behaviorally inhibited and noninhibited adolescents. The current results, when combined with prior findings, suggest that early-life temperament predicts altered striatal response in both social and nonsocial contexts and provide support for continuity between temperament measured in early childhood and neural response to social signals measured in late adolescence and early adulthood.
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