Looming Threats and Animacy: Reduced Responsiveness in Youth with Disrupted Behavior Disorders
Theoretical models have implicated amygdala dysfunction in the development of Disruptive Behavior Disorders (DBDs; Conduct Disorder/Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Amygdala dysfunction impacts valence evaluation/response selection and emotion attention in youth with DBDs, particularly in those with elevated callous-unemotional (CU) traits. However, amygdala responsiveness during social cognition and the responsiveness of the acute threat circuitry (amygdala/periaqueductal gray) in youth with DBDs have been less well-examined, particularly with reference to CU traits. 31 youth with DBDs and 27 typically developing youth (IQ, age and gender-matched) completed a threat paradigm during fMRI where animate and inanimate, threatening and neutral stimuli appeared to loom towards or recede from participants. Reduced responsiveness to threat variables, including visual threats and encroaching stimuli, was observed within acute threat circuitry and temporal, lateral frontal and parietal cortices in youth with DBDs. This reduced responsiveness, at least with respect to the looming variable, was modulated by CU traits. Reduced responsiveness to animacy information was also observed within temporal, lateral frontal and parietal cortices, but not within amygdala. Reduced responsiveness to animacy information as a function of CU traits was observed in PCC, though not within the amygdala. Reduced threat responsiveness may contribute to risk taking and impulsivity in youth with DBDs, particularly those with high levels of CU traits. Future work will need to examine the degree to which this reduced response to animacy is independent of amygdala dysfunction in youth with DBDs and what role PCC might play in the dysfunctional social cognition observed in youth with high levels of CU traits.
KeywordsDisruptive behavior disorders Conduct disorder Oppositional defiant disorder Amygdala Threat Animacy
This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health (1-ZIA-MH002860), Dr. Blair principle investigator, with ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier NCT00104039. Further support was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health in grants to R.J.R. Blair (1-K22-MH109558) and S.F. White (1-K01-MH110643).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
No authors have any conflicts of interest to disclose.
This study was approved by the National Institutes of Health Combined Neurosciences Institutional Review Board (protocol number 05-M-0105). All research procedures were compliant with relevant U.S. and National Institutes of Health ethics policies and regulations.
Written informed consent was obtained from the legal guardians of all participants and written assent was obtained from all participants.
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