Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2012 May 15;109(20):7941-6.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1120408109. Epub 2012 Apr 30.

Immature Integration and Segregation of Emotion-Related Brain Circuitry in Young Children

Affiliations
Free PMC article

Immature Integration and Segregation of Emotion-Related Brain Circuitry in Young Children

Shaozheng Qin et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

The human brain undergoes protracted development, with dramatic changes in expression and regulation of emotion from childhood to adulthood. The amygdala is a brain structure that plays a pivotal role in emotion-related functions. Investigating developmental characteristics of the amygdala and associated functional circuits in children is important for understanding how emotion processing matures in the developing brain. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) and centromedial amygdala (CMA) are two major amygdalar nuclei that contribute to distinct functions via their unique pattern of interactions with cortical and subcortical regions. Almost nothing is currently known about the maturation of functional circuits associated with these amygdala nuclei in the developing brain. Using intrinsic connectivity analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data, we investigated developmental changes in functional connectivity of the BLA and CMA in twenty-four 7- to 9-y-old typically developing children compared with twenty-four 19- to 22-y-old healthy adults. Children showed significantly weaker intrinsic functional connectivity of the amygdala with subcortical, paralimbic, and limbic structures, polymodal association, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Importantly, target networks associated with the BLA and CMA exhibited greater overlap and weaker dissociation in children. In line with this finding, children showed greater intraamygdala connectivity between the BLA and CMA. Critically, these developmental differences were reproducibly identified in a second independent cohort of adults and children. Taken together, our findings point toward weak integration and segregation of amygdala circuits in young children. These immature patterns of amygdala connectivity have important implications for understanding typical and atypical development of emotion-related brain circuitry.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Immature functional connectivity of the amygdala in children compared with adults. Brain regions showing significant intrinsic functional connectivity with the amygdala in (A) adults and (B) children. (C) Brain regions showing significantly weaker amygdala connectivity in children, compared with adults. Representative axial and sagittal slices are depicted in panels c1 and c2. These results were replicated in a second cohort of adults and children (SI Appendix, Fig. S3). Connectivity maps are overlaid on either an inflated brain surface or high-resolution sections in Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) space. Notes: L, Left; R, Right.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Immature differentiation between BLA and CMA functional connectivity in children compared with adults. Brain regions exhibiting significant interaction (A), and stronger functional connectivity with BLA, compared with CMA (shown in blue) and CMA, compared with BLA (shown in red) in (B) adults, and (C) children. This pattern of results was replicated in a second cohort of adults and children (SI Appendix, Fig. S4). Other details are as in Fig. 1.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Overlap between BLA and CMA target networks in adults and children. Brain regions showing CMA target network (shown in red) and BLA target network (shown in blue) in (A) adults and (B) children. Overlap between CMA and BLA target networks is shown in pink. (C) Similarity between BLA and CMA target networks in adults and children. Target networks for the BLA and CMA showed greater overlap in children, compared with adults, in both the Left (Upper) and Right (Lower) hemispheres. Other details are as in Fig. 1. Notes: L, Left; R, Right; **P < 0.01.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
Differential patterns of BLA and CMA functional connectivity in adults and children. (A) Parameter estimates represent the strength of functional connectivity between the BLA (shown in blue) and CMA (shown in red) with five target networks of interest – subcortical structures, cerebellum, uni- and polymodal association cortex, limbic and paralimbic structures, and prefrontal cortex. (B and C) Schematic polar plots illustrating weaker integration and differentiation of BLA and CMA connectivity in children compared to adults. (B) In adults, the BLA has stronger functional connectivity with unimodal and polymodal association cortex, whereas the CMA showed stronger functional connectivity with subcortical structures and cerebellum. (C) In children, these differential patterns are significantly less pronounced. See SI Appendix, Fig. S6 for abbreviations and additional details on anatomically-defined target networks and replication in the second cohort of children. n.s., not significant; *P < 0.05; **P < 0.01; ***P < 0.001.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 40 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback