Functional and structural amygdala - anterior cingulate connectivity correlates with attentional bias to masked fearful faces

Cortex. 2013 Oct;49(9):2595-600. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2013.07.008. Epub 2013 Jul 20.


An attentional bias to threat has been causally related to anxiety. Recent research has linked nonconscious attentional bias to threat with variability in the integrity of the amygdala - anterior cingulate pathway, which sheds light on the neuroanatomical basis for a behavioral precursor to anxiety. However, the extent to which structural variability in amygdala - anterior cingulate integrity relates to the functional connectivity within this pathway and how such functional connectivity may relate to attention bias behavior, remain critical missing pieces of the puzzle. In 15 individuals we measured the structural integrity of the amygdala - prefrontal pathway with diffusion tensor-weighted MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), amygdala-seeded intrinsic functional connectivity to the anterior cingulate, and attentional bias toward backward masked fearful faces with a dot-probe task. We found that greater biases in attention to threat predicted greater levels of uncinate fasciculus integrity, greater positive amygdala - anterior cingulate functional connectivity, and greater amygdala coupling with a broader social perception network including the superior temporal sulcus, tempoparietal junction (TPJ), and somatosensory cortex. Additionally, greater levels of uncinate fasciculus integrity correlated with greater levels of amygdala - anterior cingulate intrinsic functional connectivity. Thus, high bias individuals displayed a heightened degree of amygdala - anterior cingulate connectivity during basal conditions, which we believe predisposes these individuals to focus their attention on signals of threat within their environment.

Keywords: Awareness; Social perception; Superior temporal sulcus; Tempoparietal junction; Uncinate fasciculus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Bias
  • Facial Expression*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Social Perception
  • Young Adult