Background: Biased attention to threat is found in both individuals with anxiety symptoms and children with the childhood temperament of behavioral inhibition (BI). Although perturbed fronto-amygdala function is implicated in biased attention among anxious individuals, no work has examined the neural correlates of attention biases in BI. Work in this area might clarify underlying mechanisms for anxiety in a sample at risk for internalizing disorders. We examined the relations among early childhood BI, fronto-amygdala connectivity during an attention bias task in young adulthood, and internalizing symptoms, assessed in young adulthood. Methods: Children were assessed for BI at multiple age points from infancy through age seven. On the basis of a composite of observational and maternal report data, we selected 21 young adults classified as having a history of BI and 23 classified as non-BI for this study (n = 44). Participants completed an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging attention-bias task involving threat (angry faces) and neutral trials. Internalizing symptoms were assessed by self-report and diagnostic interviews. Results: The young adults characterized in childhood with BI exhibited greater strength in threat-related connectivity than non-behaviorally inhibited young adults. Between-group differences manifested in connections between the amygdala and two frontal regions: dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior insula. Amygdala-insula connectivity also interacted with childhood BI to predict young adult internalizing symptoms. Conclusions: Behavioral inhibition during early childhood predicts differences as young adults in threat and attention-related fronto-amygdala connectivity. Connectivity strength, in turn, moderated the relations between early BI and later psychopathology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biological Psychiatry