Effects of stress on the “triple network” of the brain in adolescents

Newswise — Philadelphia, May 11, 2022 – Stress and trauma during adolescence can have long-term health consequences, such as psychiatric disorders, which may result from neurodevelopmental effects on brain circuitry. A new study in Biological psychiatry: cognitive neurosciences and neuroimagingpublished by Elsevier, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the effects of acute stress and “polyvictimization,” or repeated trauma, on three brain networks in adolescents.

“While negative health outcomes have been separately associated with exposure to early victimization, impaired adolescent neurodevelopment, and aberrant neural network responses to acute stress, no previous research has examined how these factors are related to each other,” explained Rachel Corr, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, USA and lead author of the study. “This study was about putting those pieces of the puzzle together.”

Dr. Corr and his colleagues specifically wanted to explore “how acute stress influences the functional connectivity of the brain’s ‘triple networks’,” referring to the default mode network, the salience network, and the central executive network. Together, the three networks are essential for controlling cognition, emotion, perception, and social interaction. Aberrant activity within and between the triple networks has long been associated with psychiatric symptoms.

The researchers analyzed functional connectivity (FC) data previously collected from 79 children aged 9 to 16, many of whom were polyvictimized. To measure the effects of acute stress on brain connectivity, participants performed a task while undergoing fMRI. In the control condition, subjects solved math problems at their own pace and were told that their answers were not recorded; in the stress condition, participants had to solve math problems quickly for an allotted time and received negative feedback on their performance throughout the test.

During the acute stress condition, participants showed impaired functional connectivity between the three brain networks. Specifically, the researchers found an increase in FC between the default mode and the core executive networks, and a decrease in FC between the salience network and the other two networks. The authors posit that the insula, a region of the brain associated with inwardly directed attention, may mediate the changes they saw in FC.

The team also wanted to study how the neural network’s stress response was affected by polyvictimization, in which adolescents can experience multiple forms of victimization, including by parents, peers or other adults. By studying polyvictimization, they could study the potential cumulative effects of repeated exposures on the brain. Subjects who experienced polyvictimization were more likely to show greater reductions in HR between the salience and default mode networks and the insula in particular. Together, the findings suggest that the brain may have adapted to repeated trauma to make it less able to respond to stressful experiences. A better understanding of the neurodevelopmental effects of trauma on the brain will help researchers better address the resulting psychiatric outcomes.

Cameron Carter, MD, editor of Biological psychiatry: cognitive neurosciences and neuroimagingsaid of the work: “This study shows how repeated trauma can lead to a maladaptive response to acute stress in important functional brain networks and reveals a potential mechanism by which multiple early stressors can lead to increased neuronal vulnerability to stress and the responsibility associated with future mental health problems.

Notes for Editors
The article is titled “Functional Connectivity of the Triple Network During Acute Stress in Adolescents and the Influence of Polyvictimization”, by Rachel Corr, Sarah Glier, Joshua Bizzell, Andrea Pelletier-Baldelli, Alana Campbell, Candace Killian-Farrell , Aysenil Belger (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2022.03.003). It appears as an article in the press in Biological psychiatry: cognitive neurosciences and neuroimagingedited by Elsevier.

Author affiliations and financial and conflict of interest disclosures are available in the article.

Cameron S. Carter, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and Director of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, CA, USA. His financial information and conflict of interest disclosures are available here.

On Biological psychiatry: cognitive neurosciences and neuroimaging
Biological psychiatry: cognitive neurosciences and neuroimaging is an official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, whose purpose is to promote excellence in scientific research and education in fields that study the nature, causes, mechanisms, and treatments of thought disorders, emotions or behavior. Consistent with this mission, this international, peer-reviewed, rapid-release journal focuses on studies using the tools and constructs of cognitive neuroscience, including the full range of noninvasive neuroimaging and extra- and extra-physiological recording methodologies. human intracranial. It publishes basic and clinical studies, including those that incorporate genetic data, pharmacological challenges, and computational modeling approaches. The 2020 Impact Factor score for Biological psychiatry: cognitive neurosciences and neuroimaging is 6.204. www.sobp.org/bpcnni

About Elsevier
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