Dopaminergic mechanisms underlying normal variation in trait anxiety

Anne S. Berry, Robert L. White, Daniella J. Furman, Jenna R. Naskolnakorn, Vyoma D. Shah, Mark D’Esposito, William J. Jagust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Trait anxiety has been associated with altered activity within corticolimbic pathways connecting the amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), which receive rich dopaminergic input. Though the popular culture uses the term “chemical imbalance” to describe the pathophysiology of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety disorders, we know little about how individual differences in human dopamine neurochemistry are related to variation in anxiety and activity within corticolimbic circuits.Weaddressed this issue by examining interindividual variability in dopamine release at rest using [11C]raclopride positron emission tomography (PET), functional connectivity between amygdala and rACC using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and trait anxiety measures in healthy adult male and female humans. To measure endogenous dopamine release, we collected two [11C]raclopride PET scans per participant. We contrasted baseline [11C]raclopride D2/3 receptor binding and D2/3 receptor binding following oral methylphenidate administration. Methylphenidate blocks the dopamine transporter, which increases extracellular dopamine and leads to reduced [11C]raclopride D2/3 receptor binding via competitive displacement. We found that individuals with higher dopamine release in the amygdala and rACC self-reported lower trait anxiety. Lower trait anxiety was also associated with reduced rACC-amygdala functional connectivity at baseline. Further, functional connectivity showed a modest negative relationship with dopamine release such that reduced rACC-amygdala functional connectivity was accompanied by higher levels of dopamine release in these regions. Together, these findings contribute to hypodopaminergic models of anxiety and support the utility of combining fMRI and PET measures of neurochemical function to advance our understanding of basic affective processes in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2735-2744
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume39
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019

Keywords

  • Amygdala
  • Anterior cingulate
  • Anxiety
  • Dopamine
  • FMRI
  • Raclopride

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