Evolutionarily-conserved prefrontal-amygdalar dysfunction in early-life anxiety

Our resting-state fMRI paper was just accepted for publication at Molecular Psychiatry (2012 Impact Factor 14.897;  #1/135 Psychiatry). In the report, we provide new evidence that extreme anxiety early in life is associated with aberrant functional integration between the central nucleus of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. This pattern was discernible in lightly anesthetized young rhesus monkeys as well as quietly resting children with diagnosed anxiety disorders, indicating an evolutionarily conserved circuit, and opening the door to future mechanistic research. In the large sample of young non-human primates (= 89), reduced functional connectivity was associated with elevated metabolic activity in the amygdala and chronically heightened anxiety, behavioral inhibition, and cortisol outside of the scanner. From a translational perspective, these findings provide a novel neurobiological framework for conceptualizing extreme anxiety and set the stage for the development of novel therapeutic strategies. From the vantage point of basic psychological science, they suggest that core features of our temperament and personality are embodied in the spontaneous, on-going activity of the brain.