Stress-induced Changes in Autonomic Reactivity Vary with Adolescent Violence Exposure and Resting-state Functional Connectivity
Published in: Neuroscience (2023). doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2023.05.005
Posted on RAND.org on May 18, 2023
Exposure to violence during childhood can lead to functional changes in brain regions that are important for emotion expression and regulation, which may increase susceptibility to internalizing disorders in adulthood. Specifically, childhood violence exposure can disrupt the functional connectivity among brain regions that include the prefrontal cortex (PFC), hippocampus, and amygdala. Together, these regions are important for modulating autonomic responses to stress. However, it is unclear to what extent changes in brain connectivity relate to autonomic stress reactivity and how the relationship between brain connectivity and autonomic responses to stress varies with childhood violence exposure. Thus, the present study examined whether stress-induced changes in autonomic responses (e.g., heart rate, skin conductance level (SCL)) varied with amygdala-, hippocampus-, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)-whole brain resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) as a function of violence exposure. Two hundred and ninety-seven participants completed two resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scans prior to (pre-stress) and after (post-stress) a psychosocial stress task. Heart rate and SCL were recorded during each scan. Post-stress heart rate varied negatively with post-stress amygdala-inferior parietal lobule rsFC and positively with post-stress hippocampus-anterior cingulate cortex rsFC among those exposed to high, but not low, levels of violence. Results from the present study suggest that post-stress fronto-limbic and parieto-limbic rsFC modulates heart rate and may underlie differences in the stress response among those exposed to high levels of violence.