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Aberrant neurocognitive processing of fear in young girls with Turner syndrome


Appraisal of fearful stimuli is an integral aspect of social cognition. Neural circuitry underlying this phenomenon has been well-described and encompasses a distributed network of affective and cognitive nodes. Interestingly, this ability to process fearful faces is impaired in Turner syndrome (TS), a genetic disorder of females in which all or part of an X chromosome is missing. However, neurofunctional correlates for this impairment have not been well-studied, particularly in young girls. Given that the core features of TS include X chromosome gene haploinsufficiency and secondary sex hormone deficiencies, investigation of fearful face processing may provide insights into the influence of X chromosome gene expression on this network. Therefore, we examined behavioral and neural responses during an explicit emotional face labeling task in 14 prepubertal girls with TS and 16 typically developing age-matched controls (6-13 years). We demonstrate that girls with TS have a specific impairment in the identification of fearful faces and show decreased activation in several cognitive control regions, including the anterior dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate gyrus. Our results indicate that aberrant functional activation in dorsal cognitive regions plays an integral role in appraisal of, and regulation of response to fear in TS.

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