Neurocircuitry underlying risk and resilience to social anxiety disorder

Jacqueline A. Clauss, Suzanne N. Avery, Ross M. Vanderklok, Baxter P. Rogers, Ronald L. Cowan, Margaret M. Benningfield, Jennifer Urbano Blackford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background Almost half of children with an inhibited temperament will develop social anxiety disorder by late adolescence. Importantly, this means that half of children with an inhibited temperament will not develop social anxiety disorder. Studying adults with an inhibited temperament provides a unique opportunity to identify neural signatures of both risk and resilience to social anxiety disorder. Methods Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure brain activation during the anticipation of viewing fear faces in 34 young adults (17 inhibited, 17 uninhibited). To identify neural signatures of risk, we tested for group differences in functional activation and connectivity in regions implicated in social anxiety disorder, including the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and insula. To identify neural signatures of resilience, we tested for correlations between brain activation and both emotion regulation and social anxiety scores. Results Inhibited subjects had greater activation of a prefrontal network when anticipating viewing fear faces, relative to uninhibited subjects. No group differences were identified in the amygdala. Inhibited subjects had more negative connectivity between the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the bilateral amygdala. Within the inhibited group, those with fewer social anxiety symptoms and better emotion regulation skills had greater ACC activation and greater functional connectivity between the ACC and amygdala. Conclusions These findings suggest that engaging regulatory prefrontal regions during anticipation may be a protective factor, or putative neural marker of resilience, in high-risk individuals. Cognitive training targeting prefrontal cortex function may provide protection against anxiety, especially in high-risk individuals, such as those with inhibited temperament.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-833
Number of pages12
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • anticipation
  • fMRI
  • functional connectivity
  • inhibited temperament
  • social anxiety disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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