Psychopharmacology

, Volume 180, Issue 4, pp 670–679

Individual differences in threat sensitivity predict serotonergic modulation of amygdala response to fearful faces

  • Roshan Cools
  • Andy J. Calder
  • Andrew D. Lawrence
  • Luke Clark
  • Ed Bullmore
  • Trevor W. Robbins
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-005-2215-5

Cite this article as:
Cools, R., Calder, A.J., Lawrence, A.D. et al. Psychopharmacology (2005) 180: 670. doi:10.1007/s00213-005-2215-5
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Abstract

Rationale

In this study we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the effects of acute tryptophan depletion (ATD), a well-recognised method for inducing transient cerebral serotonin depletion, on brain activation to fearful faces.

Objectives

We predicted that ATD would increase the responsiveness of the amygdala to fearful faces as a function of individual variation in threat sensitivity.

Methods

Twelve healthy male volunteers received a tryptophan depleting drink or a tryptophan balancing amino acid drink (placebo) in a double-blind crossover design. Five hours after drink ingestion participants were scanned whilst viewing fearful, happy and neutral faces.

Results

Consistent with previous findings, fearful faces induced significant signal change in the bilateral amygdala/hippocampus as well as the fusiform face area and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, ATD modulated amygdala/hippocampus activation in response to fearful relative to happy faces as a function of self-reported threat sensitivity (as measured with the Behavioral Inhibition Scale; Carver CS, White TL (1994) Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: the BIS/BAS scales. J Pers Soc Psychol 67:319–333).

Conclusion

The data support the hypothesis that individual variation in threat sensitivity interacts with manipulation of 5-HT function to bias the processing of amygdala-dependent threat-relevant stimuli.

Keywords

Serotonin depletion Fear Functional imaging Amygdala Hippocampus Faces 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roshan Cools
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andy J. Calder
    • 3
  • Andrew D. Lawrence
    • 3
  • Luke Clark
    • 2
  • Ed Bullmore
    • 4
  • Trevor W. Robbins
    • 2
  1. 1.Helen Wills Neuroscience InstituteUniversity of California–BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences UnitCambridgeUK
  4. 4.Brain Mapping Unit, Department of PsychiatryAddenbrooke’s HospitalCambridgeUK

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