Exposure to Criticism Modulates Left but Not Right Amygdala Functional Connectivity in Healthy Adolescents: Individual Influences of Perceived and Self-Criticism

Sam Luc Bart Bonduelle, Qinyuan Chen, Guo-Rong Wu, Caroline Braet, Rudi De Raedt, Chris Baeken

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Frequent exposure to criticism is a known risk factor for various adult psychiatric disorders. Adolescents may be even more vulnerable to (parental) criticism, as their imbalanced brain maturation makes them prone to stronger mood changes and less effective emotional regulation. Identifying which adolescent subgroups are more vulnerable than others could be of great clinical relevance. Perceived criticism (PC) and self-criticism (SC), two related but distinct traits, could well be crucial vulnerability factors. Hypotheses: After exposure to criticism during fMRI scanning, rapid changes in amygdalar functional connectivity (FC) with other brain areas involved in emotion regulation and social cognitive processing will occur. These changes will depend on trait moderators, such as the adolescents' proneness to (a) perceive others as critical of them (PC) or (b) perceive themselves positively or negatively (SC). Methods: Sixty-four healthy 14-17-year-olds were exposed to a series of auditory comments. Changes in mood states were assessed based on the Profile of Mood States (POMS) prior to and after exposure to these segments. Pre- and post-experiment FC of the left and right amygdalae with other brain areas were also measured. Correlates between FC changes and psychometric measures-including the perceived criticism measure (PCM) and self-perception profile for adolescents (SPPA)-were assessed. Results: First, after being criticized, FC increases of the left amygdala seed region with brain areas related to sustained emotional processing were found, but no right amygdalar FC changes. Second, there was a significant positive partial correlation between individual PCM scores and FC changes between the left amygdala seed region and the left precuneus and left superior parietal cortex, both part of the default mode network. Conclusion: Exposure to criticism resulted in a rapid negative mood change accompanied by an increase in FC between the left amygdala and regions known to be involved in sustained emotional processing, but no right amygdalar FC changes. Furthermore, higher PC but not SC was correlated with stronger left amygdalar FC increases with these regions, suggesting an elevated vulnerability for disturbed emotional processing, as observed in mood disorders, in healthy adolescents with higher PCM scores.

Original languageEnglish
Article number673805
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 Bonduelle, Chen, Wu, Braet, De Raedt and Baeken.


  • adolescents
  • amygdala
  • functional connectivity
  • perceived criticism
  • rapid mood changes
  • self-criticism


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