Comparative Functional Connectivity of Core Brain Regions between Implicit and Explicit Memory Tasks Underlying Negative Emotion in General Anxiety Disorder

Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2022 May 31;20(2):279-291. doi: 10.9758/cpn.2022.20.2.279.


Objective: To investigate not only differential patterns of functional connectivity of core brain regions between implicit and explicit verbal memory tasks underlying negatively evoked emotional condition, but also correlations of functional connectivity (FC) strength with clinical symptom severity in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Methods: Thirteen patients with GAD and 13 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging for memory tasks with negative emotion words.

Results: Clinical symptom and its severities of GAD were potentially associated with abnormalities of task-based FC with core brain regions and distinct FC patterns between implicit vs. explicit memory processing in GAD were potentially well discriminated. Outstanding FC in implicit memory task includes positive connections of precentral gyus (PrG) to inferior frontal gyrus and inferior parietal gyrus (IPG), respectively, in encoding period; a positive connection of amygdala (Amg) to globus pallidus as well as a negative connection of Amg to cerebellum in retrieval period. Meanwhile, distinct FC in explicit memory included a positive connection of PrG to inferior temporal gyrus (ITG) in encoding period; a positive connection of the anterior cingulate gyrus to superior frontal gyrus in retrieval period. Especially, there were positive correlation between GAD-7 scores and FC of PrG-IPG (r2 = 0.324, p= 0.042) in implicit memory encoding, and FC of PrG-ITG (r2 = 0.378, p= 0.025) in explicit memory encoding.

Conclusion: This study clarified differential patterns of brain activation and relevant FC between implicit and explicit verbal memory tasks underlying negative emotional feelings in GAD. These findings will be helpful for an understanding of distinct brain functional mechanisms associated with clinical symptom severities in GAD.

Keywords: Explicit memory; Functional connectivity; General anxiety disorder; Implicit memory; Negative emotion.