Pubertal testosterone influences threat-related amygdala–orbitofrontal cortex coupling

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Growing evidence indicates that normative pubertal maturation is associated with increased threat reactivity, and this developmental shift has been implicated in the increased rates of adolescent affective disorders. However, the neural mechanisms involved in this pubertal increase in threat reactivity remain unknown. Research in adults indicates that testosterone transiently decreases amygdala–orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) coupling. Consequently, we hypothesized that increased pubertal testosterone disrupts amygdala–OFC coupling, which may contribute to developmental increases in threat reactivity in some adolescents. Hypotheses were tested in a longitudinal study by examining the impact of testosterone on functional connectivity. Findings were consistent with hypotheses and advance our understanding of normative pubertal changes in neural systems instantiating affect/motivation. Finally, potential novel insights into the neurodevelopmental pathways that may contribute to adolescent vulnerability to behavioral and emotional problems are discussed.

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