Violence exposure, affective style, and stress-induced changes in resting state functional connectivity

Heather E. Dark, Nathaniel G. Harnett, Adam M. Goodman, Muriah D. Wheelock, Sylvie Mrug, Mark A. Schuster, Marc N. Elliott, Susan Tortolero Emery, David C. Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Chronic childhood stress is linked to greater susceptibility to internalizing disorders in adulthood. Specifically, chronic stress leads to changes in brain connectivity patterns, and, in turn, affects psychological functioning. Violence exposure, a chronic stressor, increases stress reactivity and disrupts emotion regulation processes. However, it is unclear to what extent violence exposure affects the neural circuitry underlying emotion regulation. Individual differences in affective style also moderate the impact of stress on psychological function and can thus alter the relationship between violence exposure and brain function. Resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) is an index of intrinsic brain activity. Stress-induced changes in rsFC between the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex (PFC) are associated with emotion dysregulation and may elucidate how affective style modulates the relationship between violence exposure and brain connectivity. Therefore, the present study examined the impact of violence exposure and affective style on stress-induced changes in rsFC. Participants (n = 233) completed two 6-minute resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scans, one before (pre-stress) and one after (post-stress) a psychosocial stress task. The bilateral amygdala, hippocampus, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) were used as seed regions for rsFC analyses. Significant stress-induced changes in the prefrontal, fronto-limbic, and parieto-limbic rsFC were observed. Further, pre-stress to post-stress differences in rsFC varied with violence exposure and affective style. These findings suggest that prefrontal, fronto-limbic, and parieto-limbic connectivity is associated with the emotional response to stress and provide new insight into the neural mechanisms through which affective style moderates the impact violence exposure has on the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1261-1277
Number of pages17
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Affect
  • Amygdala
  • Hippocampus
  • Resting-state
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex
  • Violence exposure


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