Individual Differences in Anticipatory Somatosensory Cortex Activity for Shock is Positively Related with Trait Anxiety and Multisensory Integration
Greening, Steven G.
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Anxiety is associated with an exaggerated expectancy of harm, including overestimation of how likely a conditioned stimulus (CS+) predicts a harmful unconditioned stimulus (US). In the current study we tested whether anxiety-associated expectancy of harm increases primary sensory cortex (S1) activity on non-reinforced (i.e., no shock) CS+ trials. Twenty healthy volunteers completed a differential-tone trace conditioning task while undergoing fMRI, with shock delivered to the left hand. We found a positive correlation between trait anxiety and activity in right, but not left, S1 during CS+ versus CS conditions. Right S1 activity also correlated with individual differences in both primary auditory cortices (A1) and amygdala activity. Lastly, a seed-based functional connectivity analysis demonstrated that trial-wise S1 activity was positively correlated with regions of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), suggesting that higher-order cognitive processes contribute to the anticipatory sensory reactivity. Our findings indicate that individual differences in trait anxiety relate to anticipatory reactivity for the US during associative learning. This anticipatory reactivity is also integrated along with emotion-related sensory signals into a brain network implicated in fear-conditioned responding.