CCN meeting | Ulrike M. Krämer (University of Lübeck, Germany)

13-06-2019 from 15:00 to 16:00
Henri Dunantlaan 2, room 4.5
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Neural mechanisms underlying avoidance and approach decisions to interpersonal threat

People differ in their behavioral responses to interpersonal threat and provocation. In my talk, I will present data from fMRI and lesion studies, in which we studied the neural processes underlying this interindividual variability. I will discuss in particular the role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in shaping approach/aggressive or avoidant behavior. Both amygdala and vmPFC reactivity to social threat signals were related to the level of aggressive responses. Furthermore, social threat signals reduced amygdala-vmPFC coupling, and post-task increases in amygdala-vmPFC connectivity at rest were associated with reduced aggression. When giving the opportunity to avoid the provocative interaction, we observed enhanced vmPFC activity when subjects decided to engage in the aggressive encounter, whereas amygdala activity was specifically upregulated when participants avoided a highly provoking opponent. Our data indicate that the vmPFC is involved in the evaluation of social threat signals and affective action selection. Changes in these processes might contribute to elevated aggression in response to social threat signals in psychiatric disorders like Borderline Personality disorder.