Early-Life stress modulates neural networks associated with habitual use of reappraisal
Recent evidence shows that early life stress (ELS) is associated with altered resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) between amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, as well as with maladaptive emotion regulation strategies and negative mood. However, the relation between ELS and maladaptive emotion regulation is not deterministic. Adaptive emotion regulation strategies such as reappraisal can also ensue from experience and learning in adulthood and can prevent negative mood. The present study aims to investigate the joint influence of ELS, in particular early-life emotional abuse (EA), and habitual use of reappraisal on amygdala-centered RSFC and mood. We examined amygdala-centered RSFC using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 28 healthy adults with varied exposure to early-life emotional abuse. We found that in subjects with high early-life emotional abuse, reappraisal was predominantly associated with RSFC between left centromedial amygdala (CMA) and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), whereas in subjects with low early-life EA reappraisal predominantly involved RSFC between right CMA, premotor and supplementary motor regions. For subjects with high EA, reappraisal use was associated with a decrease in negative mood whereas it was associated with an increase in positive mood for subjects with low EA. The general findings of the study suggest that reappraisal use might act as a protective factor, notably for individuals who were exposed to ELS, and that this is mediated by alteration of amygdala-centered RSFC.