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Amygdala connectivity as a predisposing neural feature of stress-induced behaviour during the COVID-2019 outbreak in Hubei

By Yuan Zhou, Yuwen He, Yuening Jin, Bei Rong, Peter Zeidman, Huan Huang, Yuan Feng, Jian Cui, Shudong Zhang, Yun Wang, Gang Wang, Yutao Xiang, Huiling Wang

Posted 30 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.26.21261160

The amygdala plays an important role in the regulation of stress and anxiety. However, little is known about the relationship between amygdala connectivity and subsequent stress-induced behavior. The current study investigated whether amygdala connectivity measured before experiencing stress is a predisposing neural feature of subsequent stress-induced behavior while individuals face an emergent and unexpected event like the COVID-19 outbreak. Using an fMRI cohort established before the pandemic in Wuhan, Hubei, we found that resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) of the right amygdala with the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) was negatively correlated with the stress-induced behavior of these volunteers during the COVID-2019 outbreak in Hubei. Furthermore, the self-connection of the right amygdala, inferred using dynamic causal modeling, was negatively correlated with stress-induced behavior in this cohort. A significant correlation between the right amygdala-dmPFC rsFC and self-connection of the right amygdala was found. Additionally, after three months of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hubei when the stressor weakened - and in another cohort collected in regions outside Hubei where the individuals experienced a lower level of stress - the relationship between the amygdala-dmPFC rsFC and the stress-induced behavior disappeared. Our findings support that amygdala connectivity is a predisposing neural feature of stress-induced behavior in the COVID-19 outbreak in Hubei, suggesting the amygdala connectivity before stress predicts subsequent behavior while facing an emergent and unexpected event. And thus our findings provide an avenue for identifying individuals vulnerable to stress using intrinsic brain function before stress as an indicator.

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