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Papers of the Week

Papers: 19 Mar 2022 - 25 Mar 2022

Animal Studies

2022 Apr 01




Amygdala functional connectivity mediates the association between catastrophizing and threat-safety learning in youth with chronic pain.


Timmers I, López-Solà M, Heathcote LC, Heirich M, Rush GQ, Shear D, Borsook D, Simons LE
Pain. 2022 Apr 01; 163(4):719-728.
PMID: 35302974.


There is a need to identify brain connectivity alterations predictive of transdiagnostic processes that may confer vulnerability for affective symptomology. Here, we tested whether amygdala resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) mediated the relationship between catastrophizing (negative threat appraisals and predicting poorer functioning) and altered threat-safety discrimination learning (critical to flexibly adapt to new and changing environments) in adolescents with persistent pain. We examined amygdala rsFC in 46 youth with chronic pain and 29 healthy peers (age M = 15.8, SD = 2.9; 64 females) and its relationship with catastrophizing and threat-safety learning. We used a developmentally appropriate threat-safety learning paradigm and performed amygdala seed-based rsFC and whole-brain mediation analyses. Patients exhibited enhanced connectivity between the left amygdala and right supramarginal gyrus (SMG) (cluster-level P-FDR < 0.05), whereas right amygdala rsFC showed no group differences. Only in patients, elevated catastrophizing was associated with facilitated threat-safety learning (CS+>CS-; rp = 0.49, P = 0.001). Furthermore, in patients, elevated catastrophizing was associated with reduced left amygdala connectivity with SMG / parietal operculum, and increased left amygdala connectivity with hippocampus, dorsal striatum, paracingulate, and motor regions (P < 0.001). In addition, blunted left amygdala rsFC with right SMG/parietal operculum mediated the association between catastrophizing and threat-safety learning (P < 0.001). To conclude, rsFC between the left amygdala (a core emotion hub) and inferior parietal lobe (involved in appraisal and integration of bodily signals and attentional reorienting) explains associations between daily-life relevant catastrophizing and threat-safety learning. Findings provide a putative model for understanding pathophysiology involved in core psychological processes that cut across diagnoses, including disabling pain, and are relevant for their etiology.