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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Intergenerational neural mediators of early-life anxious temperament.

  • Author(s): Fox, Andrew S
  • Oler, Jonathan A
  • Shackman, Alexander J
  • Shelton, Steven E
  • Raveendran, Muthuswamy
  • McKay, D Reese
  • Converse, Alexander K
  • Alexander, Andrew
  • Davidson, Richard J
  • Blangero, John
  • Rogers, Jeffrey
  • Kalin, Ned H
  • et al.

Understanding the heritability of neural systems linked to psychopathology is not sufficient to implicate them as intergenerational neural mediators. By closely examining how individual differences in neural phenotypes and psychopathology cosegregate as they fall through the family tree, we can identify the brain systems that underlie the parent-to-child transmission of psychopathology. Although research has identified genes and neural circuits that contribute to the risk of developing anxiety and depression, the specific neural systems that mediate the inborn risk for these debilitating disorders remain unknown. In a sample of 592 young rhesus monkeys that are part of an extended multigenerational pedigree, we demonstrate that metabolism within a tripartite prefrontal-limbic-midbrain circuit mediates some of the inborn risk for developing anxiety and depression. Importantly, although brain volume is highly heritable early in life, it is brain metabolism-not brain structure-that is the critical intermediary between genetics and the childhood risk to develop stress-related psychopathology.

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