Individual differences in disgust sensitivity modulate neural responses to aversive/disgusting stimuli

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Little is known about how individual differences in trait disgust sensitivity modulate the neural responses to disgusting stimuli in the brain. Thirty-seven adult healthy volunteers completed the Disgust Scale (DS) and viewed alternating blocks of disgusting and neutral pictures from the International Affective Picture System while undergoing fMRI scanning. DS scores correlated positively with activations in brain regions previously associated with disgust (anterior insula, ventrolateral prefrontal cortex–temporal pole, putamen–globus pallidus, dorsal anterior cingulate, and visual cortex) and negatively with brain regions involved in the regulation of emotions (dorsolateral and rostral prefrontal cortices). The results were not confounded by biological sex, anxiety or depression scores, which were statistically controlled for. Disgust sensitivity, a behavioral trait that is normally distributed in the general population, predicts the magnitude of the individual's neural responses to a broad range of disgusting stimuli. The results have implications for disgust-related psychiatric disorders.

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