The amygdala and subgenual anterior cingulate (AC) have been associated with anxiety and mood disorders, for which trait neuroticism is a risk factor. Prior work has not related individual differences in amygdala or subgenual AC activation with neuroticism. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to investigate changes in blood oxygen level-dependent signal within the amygdala and subgenual AC associated with trait neuroticism in a nonclinical sample of 36 volunteers during an emotional conflict task. Neuroticism correlated positively with amygdala and subgenual AC activation during trials of high emotional conflict, compared with trials of low emotional conflict. The subscale of neuroticism that reflected the anxious form of neuroticism (N1) explained a greater proportion of variance within the observed clusters than the subscale of neuroticism that reflected the depressive form of neuroticism (N3). Using a task that is sensitive to individual differences in the detection of emotional conflict, the authors have provided a neural correlate of the link between neuroticism and anxiety and mood disorders. This effect was driven to a greater extent by the anxious relative to the depressive characteristics of neuroticism and may constitute vulnerability markers for anxiety-related disorders.
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