Effects of Sensitivity to Life Stress on Uncinate Fasciculus Segments in Early Adolescence.
Social cognitive and affective neuroscience
Previous research suggests that exposure to early life stress (ELS) affects the structural integrity of the uncinate fasciculus (UF), a frontolimbic white matter tract that undergoes protracted development throughout adolescence. Adolescence is an important transitional period characterized by the emergence of internalizing psychopathology such as anxiety, particularly in individuals with high levels of stress sensitivity. We examined the relations among sensitivity to ELS, structural integrity of the UF, and anxiety symptoms in 104 early adolescents. We conducted structured interviews to assess exposure to ELS and obtained subjective and objective ratings of stress severity, from which we derived an index of ELS sensitivity. We also acquired diffusion MRI and conducted deterministic tractography to visualize UF trajectories and to compute measures of structural integrity from three distinct segments of the UF: frontal, insular, temporal. We found that higher sensitivity to ELS predicted both reduced fractional anisotropy in right frontal UF and higher levels of anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest that fibers in frontal UF, which are still developing throughout adolescence, are most vulnerable to the effects of heightened sensitivity to ELS, and that reduced structural integrity of frontal UF may underlie the relation between early stress and subsequent internalizing psychopathology.
View details for DOI 10.1093/scan/nsx065
View details for PubMedID 28460088
White-Matter Tract Connecting Anterior Insula to Nucleus Accumbens Correlates with Reduced Preference for Positively Skewed Gambles
2016; 89 (1): 63-69
Individuals sometimes show inconsistent risk preferences, including excessive attraction to gambles featuring small chances of winning large amounts (called "positively skewed" gambles). While functional neuroimaging research indicates that nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and anterior insula (AIns) activity inversely predict risky choice, structural connections between these regions have not been described in humans. By combining diffusion-weighted MRI with tractography, we identified the anatomical trajectory of white-matter tracts projecting from the AIns to the NAcc and statistically validated these tracts using Linear Fascicle Evaluation (LiFE) and virtual lesions. Coherence of the right AIns-NAcc tract correlated with reduced preferences for positively skewed gambles. Further, diminished NAcc activity during gamble presentation mediated the association between tract structure and choice. These results identify an unreported tract connecting the AIns to the NAcc in humans and support the notion that structural connections can alter behavior by influencing brain activity as individuals weigh uncertain gains against uncertain losses.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.12.015
View details for Web of Science ID 000373564300008
View details for PubMedID 26748088
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4720154