Attachment-security priming attenuates amygdala activation to social and linguistic threat

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A predominant expectation that social relationships with others are safe (a secure attachment style), has been linked with reduced threat-related amygdala activation. Experimental priming of mental representations of attachment security can modulate neural responding, but the effects of attachment-security priming on threat-related amygdala activation remains untested. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the present study examined the effects of trait and primed attachment security on amygdala reactivity to threatening stimuli in an emotional faces and a linguistic dot-probe task in 42 healthy participants. Trait attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance were positively correlated with amygdala activation to threatening faces in the control group, but not in the attachment primed group. Furthermore, participants who received attachment-security priming showed attenuated amygdala activation in both the emotional faces and dot-probe tasks. The current findings demonstrate that variation in state and trait attachment security modulates amygdala reactivity to threat. These findings support the potential use of attachment security-boosting methods as interventions and suggest a neural mechanism for the protective effect of social bonds in anxiety disorders.

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