Stress sensitive healthy females show less left amygdala activation in response to withdrawal-related visual stimuli under passive viewing conditions.

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3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The amygdalae are key players in the processing of a variety of emotional stimuli. Especially aversive visual stimuli have been reported to attract attention and activate the amygdalae. However, as it has been argued that passively viewing withdrawal-related images could attenuate instead of activate amygdalae neuronal responses, its role under passive viewing conditions remains unclear. Furthermore, because individual sensitivity to stress reactions has been shown to modulate amygdalae processing, the aim of the current event-related fMRI study was to investigate whether individual differences in stress proneness could influence amygdala responses while passively viewing withdrawal and approach-related visual images. We presented 14 healthy female subjects with a random sequence of images of happy 'healthy' baby faces (approach-related) and baby faces disfigured by severe dermatological conditions (withdrawal-related). No instructions were given other than to watch the images attentively. We integrated individual perceived stress (PSS) scores in our analysis. The processing of withdrawal-related pictures resulted in less left amygdala activity in females scoring higher on perceived stress. Our findings suggest that stress-sensitive healthy females are less able to fully attend to withdrawal-related visual material and in essence avoid exposure to such images in an effort to reduce strong psychophysiological responses. Although the relatively small number of participants limits drawing firm conclusions, we suggest that in passive viewing emotional brain imaging paradigms, individual information on stress proneness should be included in the interpretation of amygdala neuronal processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-236
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Cognition
Volume80
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

Keywords

  • fMRI
  • Amygdala
  • Perceived stress
  • Healthy females
  • Lateralization

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