The authors sought to explore how conduct, hyperactivity/inattention, and emotional symptoms are associated with neural reactivity to social-emotional stimuli, and the extent to which psychosocial stress modulates these relationships.
Participants were community adolescents recruited as part of the European IMAGEN study. Bilateral amygdala regions of interest were used to assess the relationship between the three symptom domains and functional MRI neural reactivity during passive viewing of dynamic angry and neutral facial expressions. Exploratory functional connectivity and whole brain multiple regression approaches were used to analyze how the symptoms and psychosocial stress relate to other brain regions.
In response to the social-emotional stimuli, adolescents with high levels of conduct or hyperactivity/inattention symptoms who had also experienced a greater number of stressful life events showed hyperactivity of the amygdala and several regions across the brain. This effect was not observed with emotional symptoms. A cluster in the midcingulate was found to be common to both conduct problems and hyperactivity symptoms. Exploratory functional connectivity analyses suggested that amygdala-precuneus connectivity is associated with hyperactivity/inattention symptoms.
The results link hyperactive amygdala responses and regions critical for top-down emotional processing with high levels of psychosocial stress in individuals with greater conduct and hyperactivity/inattention symptoms. This work highlights the importance of studying how psychosocial stress affects functional brain responses to social-emotional stimuli, particularly in adolescents with externalizing symptoms.
Abstract: In many societies, the majority of adults regularly consume alcohol. However, only a small proportion develops alcohol addiction. Individuals at risk often show a high sensation-seeking/low-anxiety behavioural phenotype. Here we asked which role EF hand domain containing 2 (EFhd2; Swiprosin-1) plays in the control of alcohol addiction-associated behaviours. EFhd2 knockout (KO) mice drink more alcohol than controls and spontaneously escalate their consumption. This coincided with a sensation-seeking and low-anxiety phenotype. A reversal of the behavioural phenotype with β-carboline, an anxiogenic inverse benzodiazepine receptor agonist, normalized alcohol preference in EFhd2 KO mice, demonstrating an EFhd2-driven relationship between personality traits and alcohol preference. These findings were confirmed in a human sample where we observed a positive association of the EFhd2 single-nucleotide polymorphism rs112146896 with lifetime drinking and a negative association with anxiety in healthy adolescents. The lack of EFhd2 reduced extracellular dopamine levels in the brain, but enhanced responses to alcohol. In confirmation, gene expression analysis revealed reduced tyrosine hydroxylase expression and the regulation of genes involved in cortex development, Eomes and Pax6, in EFhd2 KO cortices. These findings were corroborated in Xenopus tadpoles by EFhd2 knockdown. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in mice showed that a lack of EFhd2 reduces cortical volume in adults. Moreover, human MRI confirmed the negative association between lifetime alcohol drinking and superior frontal gyrus volume. We propose that EFhd2 is a conserved resilience factor against alcohol consumption and its escalation, working through Pax6/Eomes. Reduced EFhd2 function induces high-risk personality traits of sensation-seeking/low anxiety associated with enhanced alcohol consumption, which may be related to cortex function.
Abstract: Impulsivity is associated with a spectrum of psychiatric disorders including drug addiction. To investigate genetic associations with impulsivity and initiation of drug taking, we took a two-step approach. First, we identified genes whose expression level in prefrontal cortex, striatum and accumbens were associated with impulsive behavior in the 5-choice serial reaction time task across 10 BXD recombinant inbred (BXD RI) mouse strains and their progenitor C57BL/6J and DBA2/J strains. Behavioral data were correlated with regional gene expression using GeneNetwork (www.genenetwork.org), to identify 44 genes whose probability of association with impulsivity exceeded a false discovery rate of < 0.05. We then interrogated the IMAGEN database of 1423 adolescents for potential associations of SNPs in human homologs of those genes identified in the mouse study, with brain activation during impulsive performance in the Monetary Incentive Delay task, and with novelty seeking scores from the Temperament and Character Inventory, as well as alcohol experience. There was a significant overall association between the human homologs of impulsivity-related genes and percentage of premature responses in the MID task and with fMRI BOLD-response in ventral striatum (VS) during reward anticipation. In contrast, no significant association was found between the polygenic scores and anterior cingulate cortex activation. Univariate association analyses revealed that the G allele (major) of the intronic SNP rs6438839 in the KALRN gene was significantly associated with increased VS activation. Additionally, the A-allele (minor) of KALRN intronic SNP rs4634050, belonging to the same haplotype block, was associated with increased frequency of binge drinking.