Journal Article

Amygdala volume correlates positively with fearfulness in normal healthy girls

Ellen A. A. van der Plas, Aaron D. Boes, John A. Wemmie, Daniel Tranel and Peg Nopoulos

in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Volume 5, issue 4, pages 424-431
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 1749-5016
Published online February 2010 | e-ISSN: 1749-5024 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsq009
Amygdala volume correlates positively with fearfulness in normal healthy girls

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Research into the neural underpinnings of fear and fear-related pathology has highlighted the role of the amygdala. For instance, bilateral damage to the amygdaloid complex is associated with decreased appreciation of danger and recognition of fear in humans, whereas enlarged amygdala volume is associated with internalizing syndromes. It is unknown whether amygdala volume and fearfulness are related in the absence of pathology. We examined the correlation between normal fearfulness and amygdala morphology in 116 healthy children and adolescents (60 boys, 56 girls, age 7–17 years). Fearfulness was measured using the parent ratings on the Pediatric Behavior Scale and amygdala volumes were determined by manual tracing. We found a positive correlation between right amygdala volume in girls (r = 0.29). This relationship was more robust and present bilaterally when analyses were limited to girls with a positive nuclear family history of depression (for left r = 0.63; for right r = 0.58). In boys there was no significant relationship which may suggest that biological mechanisms differ between sexes. Given the role of enlarged amygdala volume in pathology, these findings may indicate that variation in amygdala morphology marks susceptibility to internalizing disorders.

Keywords: amygdala volume; fearfulness; endophenotype; sex differences

Journal Article.  5482 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognition and Behavioural Neuroscience

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