Poster C41, Sunday, March 25, 1:00-3:00 pm, Exhibit Hall C
ANXIETY MODULATES AUTONOMIC REGULATION AND NEURAL ACTIVATION DURING HIGH-LOAD WORKING MEMORY FOLLOWING ACUTE STRESS IN ADOLESCENCE
Jessica Graham1,2, Ashley Williams1,2, Candace Killian-Farrell1, Hannah Waltz1, Joshua Bizzell1, Erin King1, Alana Campbell1, Aysenil Belger1,2; 1University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Psychiatry, 2Duke-UNC Brain Imaging Analysis Center
Dysregulated stress response may impact important cognitive neural circuits and contribute to the onset and severity of neuropsychiatric illness in adolescents. This study uses fMRI (N=54) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA; N=23) to explore the relationship between stress response, functional brain activity, and anxiety in adolescents. Participants completed an imaging protocol with an acute psychosocial stress task and a series of n-back (n=0,1,2) tasks, during which RSA was collected as a non-invasive measure of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity. We predicted that adolescents with higher trait anxiety (STAI) would exhibit reduced RSA withdrawal in response to stress, suggesting inadequate ANS adaptation. RSA at baseline correlated with STAI (p<.05), supporting this prediction. Statistically significant correlations between change in RSA from baseline and STAI during pre- and post-stress n-back tasks were found (p<.05). We also predicted that adolescents who exhibit reduced RSA withdrawal or high trait anxiety would show greater fMRI activation in limbic regions. Posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) activation correlated with STAI at the post-stress 2-back (p<.05). These results suggest that aberrant RSA reactivity may be closely linked to trait anxiety and influenced by cognitive stressors such as increased working memory load. In turn, trait anxiety is related to activation in a brain region involved in the default mode and cognitive control networks. Improved understanding of the role of stress regulation in cognitive network modulation may inform neurodevelopmental models of adolescent cognitive dysregulation and risk for neuropsychiatric disorders.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Working memory