Individual differences in common factors of emotional traits and executive functions predict functional connectivity of the amygdala.
Rohr CS., Dreyer FR., Aderka IM., Margulies DS., Frisch S., Villringer A., Okon-Singer H.
Evidence suggests that individual differences in emotion control are associated with frontoparietal-limbic networks and linked to emotional traits and executive functions. In a first attempt to directly target the link between emotional traits and executive functions using resting-state fMRI analysis, 43 healthy adults completed a test battery including executive tasks and emotional trait self-assessments that were subjected to a principal component analysis. Of the three factors detected, two explained 40.4% of the variance and were further investigated. Both factors suggest a relation between emotional traits and executive functions. Specifically, the first factor consisted of measures related to inhibitory control and negative affect, and the second factor was related to reward and positive affect. To investigate whether this interplay between emotional traits and executive functions is reflected in neural connectivity, we used resting-state fMRI to explore the functional connectivity of the amygdala as a starting point, and progressed to other seed-based analyses based on the initial findings. We found that the first factor predicted the strength of connectivity between brain regions known to be involved in the cognitive control of emotion, including the amygdala and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, whereas the second factor predicted the strength of connectivity between brain regions known to be involved in reward and attention, including the amygdala, the caudate and the thalamus. These findings suggest that individual differences in the ability to inhibit negative affect are mediated by prefrontal-limbic pathways, while the ability to be positive and use rewarding information is mediated by a network that includes the amygdala and thalamostriatal regions.