Tillman, R. M., Stockbridge, M. D., Nacewicz, B. M., Torrisi, S., Fox, A. S., Smith, J. F. & Shackman, A. J. (2018). Intrinsic functional connectivity of the central extended amygdala. Human Brain Mapping, 39, 1291-1312.  [Data Collection at NeuroVault.Org]


The central extended amygdala (EAc)—including the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) and central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce)—plays a critical role in triggering fear and anxiety and is implicated in the development of a range of debilitating neuropsychiatric disorders. While it is widely believed that these disorders reflect the coordinated activity of widely distributed neural circuits, the functional architecture of the EAc network, and the degree to which the BST and the Ce show distinct patterns of functional connectivity, is unclear. Here, we used a novel combination of approaches to trace the connectivity of the BST and the Ce in 130 healthy, racially diverse, community-dwelling adults. Multiband imaging, high-precision registration techniques, and spatially unsmoothed data maximized anatomical specificity. Using newly developed seed regions, whole-brain regression analyses revealed robust functional connectivity between the BST and Ce via the sublenticular extended amygdala, the ribbon of subcortical gray matter encompassing the ventral amygdalofugal pathway. Both regions displayed coupling with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), midcingulate cortex (MCC), insula, and anterior hippocampus. The BST showed stronger connectivity with the thalamus, striatum, periaqueductal gray, and several prefrontal territories. The only regions showing stronger functional connectivity with the Ce were neighboring regions of the dorsal amygdala, amygdalohippocampal area, and anterior hippocampus. These observations provide a baseline against which to compare a range of special populations, inform our understanding of the role of the EAc in normal and pathological fear and anxiety, and showcase image registration techniques which may be useful for researchers working with ‘de-identified’ neuroimaging data.

Keywords: affective neuroscience, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST/BNST), central extended amygdala, Nathan Kline Institute-Rockland Sample (NKI-RS), resting-state fMRI

This work was supported by the University of California, Davis; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Wisconsin—Madison; and National Institutes of Health (DA040717 and MH107444).