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Keywords:

  • Amygdala;
  • ACC;
  • DLPFC;
  • Connectivity;
  • Social Phobia;
  • PPI

Background

Generalized social anxiety disorder (gSAD) is characterized by exaggerated amygdala reactivity to social signals of threat, but if and how the amygdala interacts with functionally and anatomically connected prefrontal cortex (PFC) remains largely unknown. Recent evidence points to aberrant amygdala connectivity to medial PFC in gSAD at rest, but it is difficult to attribute functional relevance without the context of threat processing. Here, we address this by studying amygdala–frontal cortex connectivity during viewing of fearful faces and at rest in gSAD patients.

Methods

Twenty patients with gSAD and 17 matched healthy controls (HCs) participated in functional magnetic resonance imaging of an emotional face matching task and a resting state task. Functional connectivity and psychophysiological interaction analysis were used to assess amygdala connectivity.

Results

Compared to HCs, gSAD patients exhibited less connectivity between amygdala and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) while viewing fearful faces. gSAD patients also showed less connectivity between amygdala and rostral ACC at rest in the absence of fearful faces. DLPFC connectivity was negatively correlated with LSASFear (where LSAS is Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale).

Conclusions

Task and rest paradigms provide unique and important information about discrete and overlapping functional networks. In particular, amygdala coupling to DLPFC may be a phasic abnormality, emerging only in the presence of a social predictor of threat, whereas amygdala coupling to the rostral ACC may reflect both phasic and tonic abnormalities. These findings prompt further studies to better delineate intrinsic and externally evoked brain connectivity in anxiety and depression in relation to amygdala dysfunction.