Reducing Amygdala Activity and Phobic Fear through Cognitive Top-Down Regulation

Loos, Eva and Schicktanz, Nathalie and Fastenrath, Matthias and Coynel, David and Milnik, Annette and Fehlmann, Bernhard and Egli, Tobias and Ehrler, Melanie and Papassotiropoulos, Andreas and de Quervain, Dominique J.-F.. (2020) Reducing Amygdala Activity and Phobic Fear through Cognitive Top-Down Regulation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32 (6). pp. 1117-1129.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/79992/

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The amygdala is critically involved in emotional processing, including fear responses, and shows hyperactivity in anxiety disorders. Previous research in healthy participants has indicated that amygdala activity is down-regulated by cognitively demanding tasks that engage the PFC. It is unknown, however, if such an acute down-regulation of amygdala activity might correlate with reduced fear in anxious participants. In an fMRI study of 43 participants (11 men) with fear of snakes, we found reduced amygdala activity when visual stimuli were processed under high cognitive load, irrespective of whether the stimuli were of neutral or phobic content. Furthermore, dynamic causal modeling revealed that this general reduction in amygdala activity was partially mediated by a load-dependent increase in dorsolateral PFC activity. Importantly, high cognitive load also resulted in an acute decrease in perceived phobic fear while viewing the fearful stimuli. In conclusion, our data indicate that a cognitively demanding task results in a top-down regulation of amygdala activity and an acute reduction of fear in phobic participants. These findings may inspire the development of novel psychological intervention approaches aimed at reducing fear in anxiety disorders.
Faculties and Departments:03 Faculty of Medicine > Bereich Psychiatrie (Klinik) > Erwachsenenpsychiatrie UPK > Molekulare Neurowissenschaften (Papassotiropoulos)
03 Faculty of Medicine > Departement Klinische Forschung > Bereich Psychiatrie (Klinik) > Erwachsenenpsychiatrie UPK > Molekulare Neurowissenschaften (Papassotiropoulos)
05 Faculty of Science > Departement Biozentrum > Services Biozentrum > Life Sciences Training Facility (Papassotiropoulos)
07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Forschungsbereich Klinische Psychologie und Neurowissenschaften > Molecular Psychology (Papassotiropoulos)
UniBasel Contributors:Papassotiropoulos, Andreas
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:29 Dec 2020 14:08
Deposited On:29 Dec 2020 14:08

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