A dimensional approach to jealousy reveals enhanced fronto-striatal, insula and limbic responses to angry faces
Jealousy is a complex social emotion combining the different primary emotions of anger, fear and sadness. Previous evidence has suggested the involvement of fronto-striatal dopaminergic circuitry in pathological jealousy, although little is known about overlaps with the neural representation of primary emotions involved in non-morbid jealousy and the utility of a dimensional neuroimaging approach. In the current study, 85 healthy subjects underwent fMRI during an emotional face recognition paradigm and resting state. A total of 150 faces (happy, angry, fearful, sad, neutral) were presented and subjects required to identify the expression and rate its intensity. Trait jealousy was assessed using the Multidimensional Jealousy Scale. Behavioral results showed that only intensity ratings of angry faces were positively associated with subjects’ jealousy scores. During processing of angry versus neutral expression faces, subjects with elevated jealousy exhibited increased activation in the right thalamus, insula, fusiform gyrus and hippocampus, left dorsal striatum, superior parietal lobule and bilateral cerebellum and inferior frontal gyrus after controlling for trait aggression and sex. Functional connectivity between the inferior frontal gyrus and dorsal striatum was also increased. No associations with resting-state functional connectivity were found. Overall, the present study demonstrates an association between exaggerated jealousy and increased intensity ratings of angry faces as well as activity and functional connectivity of the dorsal striatal–inferior frontal circuitry. Thus, increased emotional responsivity to social threat and enhanced activity in limbic regions and dopaminergic fronto-striatal circuitry may be features of both non-morbid and pathological jealousy confirming the utility of a dimensional approach.
KeywordsAnger Jealousy Dimensional approach Face emotion Fronto-striatal circuits Limbic system
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) grant numbers 31530032 (KMK) and 91632117 (BB).
Author contributions statement
X.Z., B.B, and K.K designed the study and wrote the paper. X.Z. and L.L. prepared all the materials and programed the procedures. X.Z., L.L., J.L., L.X., and Z.G. acquired the data. X.Z., L.L, F.Z., B.B., and K.K. analyzed the data. X.Z., B.B and K.K interpreted the data and drafted the paper. All authors contributed to and have approved the final version of the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
We have nothing to disclose in terms of disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.
Research involving human and/or animal participants
The study had full ethical approval by the local ethics committee at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and experiments were carried out in accordance with the latest revision of the Declaration of Helsinki.
Informed consent was obtained in writing from all individual participants included in the study.
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