Summary: Understanding how changes in the brain relate to changes in well-being is essential for developing new targets for the treatment of mental health disorders.
Source: University of Oxford
Associate Professor Miriam Klein-Flügge and her colleagues looked at brain connectivity and mental health data from nearly 500 people. In particular, they looked at the connectivity of the amygdala, a brain region well known for its importance in processing emotions and rewards.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to consider seven small subdivisions of the amygdala and their associated networks rather than combining the entire region as previous studies have done.
The team also took a more precise approach to mental well-being data, looking at a large group of healthy people and using questionnaires that captured information about well-being in social, emotional, sleep and anger.
This generated more accurate data than many surveys that still use broad diagnoses such as depression or anxiety, which involve many different symptoms.
The newspaper, published in Nature Human behaviorshows how the improved level of detail on brain connectivity and well-being has made it possible to characterize the exact brain networks related to these distinct aspects of mental health.
The brain connections that mattered most for discerning whether an individual was struggling with sleep issues, for example, appeared very different from those that carried information about their social well-being.
Associate Professor Miriam Klein-Flügge from the Department of Experimental Psychology, based at the Wellcome Center for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN), said: “Understanding how changes in the brain relate to changes in well-being is an important step in the journey. towards more targeted mental health treatments.
“We have looked at the brain in much finer subdivisions than previous research, which more closely resemble the way the brain is organized, and our results indicate that it may one day be possible to develop very precise and non-invasive to target specific areas of the brain, making future treatments much more refined.
The researchers also found that the nature of the identified brain networks differed. For example, they found that connectivity in evolutionarily older subcortical circuits was most strongly related to the tendency to feel negative emotions, while amygdala connectivity with newer and older cortical circuits contributed clearly to social well-being.
The findings point to the potential benefit of looking at mental well-being and the brain networks involved at a finer scale than before, a scale that more closely matches the functional organization of the brain.
Although more research is needed, it may be possible in the future to target treatments to the brain circuits most relevant to an individual’s core symptoms.
This possibility is becoming a reality with current advances in non-invasive methods of deep brain stimulation such as ultrasound, for example.
About this mental health and neuroscience research news
Author: Press office
Source: University of Oxford
Contact: Press Office – University of Oxford
Image: Image is credited to Oxford University
Original research: Access closed.
“Relationship Between Nuclei-Specific Amygdala Connectivity and Dimensions of Mental Health in Humans” by Miriam C. Klein-Flügge et al. Nature Human behavior
Relationship between specific amygdala connectivity to nuclei and dimensions of mental health in humans
There is growing interest in the use of neuroimaging measures to predict psychiatric disorders. However, predictions are usually based on large brain networks and high disorder heterogeneity. Thus, they lack both anatomical and behavioral specificity, preventing the advancement of targeted interventions.
Here we address both challenges. First, using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, we fragmented the amygdala, a region implicated in mood disorders, into seven nuclei. Next, a questionnaire-based factor analysis provided subclinical dimensions of mental health frequently impaired in anxious-depressive individuals, such as negative emotions and sleep problems.
Finally, for each behavioral dimension, we identified the most predictive resting-state functional connectivity between individual nuclei in the amygdala and very specific regions of interest, such as the dorsal raphe nucleus in the brainstem. or the medial frontal cortical regions. Connectivity in circumscribed amygdala networks predicted behaviors in an independent dataset.
Our results reveal specific relationships between dimensions of mental health and connectivity in specific subcortical networks.
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