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FMRI Study of Neural Responses to Implicit Infant Emotion in Anorexia Nervosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2017

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Abstract

Difficulties in social-emotional processing have been proposed to play an important role in the development and maintenance of anorexia nervosa (AN). Few studies, thus far, have investigated neural processes that underlie these difficulties, including processing emotional facial expressions. However, the majority of these studies have investigated neural responses to adult emotional display, which may be confounded by elevated sensitivity to social rank and threat in AN. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the neural processes underlying implicit processing of positively and negatively valenced infant emotional display in AN. Twenty-one adult women with AN and twenty-six healthy comparison (HC) women were presented with images of positively valenced, negatively valenced, and neutral infant faces during a fMRI scan. Significant differences between the groups in positive > neutral and negative > neutral contrasts were investigated in a priori regions of interest, including the bilateral amygdala, insula, and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). The findings revealed that the AN participants showed relatively increased recruitment while the HC participants showed relatively reduced recruitment of the bilateral amygdala and the right dorsolateral PFC in the positive > neutral contrast. In the negative > neutral contrast, the AN group showed relatively increased recruitment of the left posterior insula while the HC groups showed relatively reduced recruitment of this region. These findings suggest that people with AN may engage in implicit prefrontal down-regulation of elevated limbic reactivity to positively social-emotional stimuli.

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