Interaction of neuropeptide Y genotype and childhood emotional maltreatment on brain activity during emotional processing

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Abstract

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) has been associated with stress reactivity in affective disorders and is most densely expressed in the amygdala. An important stressor associated with affective disorders is the experience of childhood emotional maltreatment (CEM). We investigated whether the interaction of NPY risk genotype and CEM would affect brain activation. From the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, 33 healthy controls and 85 patients with affective disorders were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging while making gender decisions of emotional facial expressions. Results showed interactions between genotype and CEM, within carriers of the risk genotype, CEM was associated with higher amygdala activation, whereas CEM did not influence activation in non-risk carriers. In the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), less activation was seen in those with CEM and the risk genotype, whereas genotype did not influence PCC activation in those without CEM. In addition, those carrying the risk genotype and with experience of CEM made a faster gender decision than those without CEM. Thus, the combined effect of carrying NPY risk genotype and a history of CEM affected amygdala and PCC reactivity, areas related to emotion, self-relevance processing and autobiographical memory. These results are consistent with the notion that the combination of risk genotype and CEM may cause hypervigilance.

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