Temporal dynamics of stress-induced alternations of intrinsic amygdala connectivity and neuroendocrine levels

C.W.E.M. Quaedflieg*, V. van de Ven, T. Meyer, N. Siep, H. Merckelbach, T. Smeets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Stress-induced changes in functional brain connectivity have been linked to the etiology of stress-related disorders. Resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) is especially informative in characterizing the temporal trajectory of glucocorticoids during stress adaptation. Using the imaging Maastricht Acute Stress Test (iMAST), we induced acute stress in 39 healthy volunteers and monitored the neuroendocrine stress levels during three runs of resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI): before (run 1), immediately following (run 2), and 30min after acute stress (run 3). The iMAST resulted in strong increases in cortisol levels. Whole-brain analysis revealed that acute stress (run 2-1) was characterized by changes in connectivity of the amygdala with the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), ventral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), cuneus, parahippocampal gyrus, and culmen. Additionally, cortisol responders were characterized by enhanced amygdala-medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connectivity. Stress recovery (run 3-2) was characterized by altered amygdala connectivity with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), ventral and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), anterior hippocampal complex, cuneus, and presupplementary motor area (preSMA). Opposite to non-responders, cortisol responders were characterized by enhanced amygdala connectivity with the anterior hippocampal complex and parahippocampal gyrus, and reduced connectivity with left dlPFC, dACC, and culmen during early recovery. Acute stress responding and recovery are thus associated with changes in the functional connectivity of the amygdala network. Our findings show that these changes may be regulated via stress-induced neuroendocrine levels. Defining stress-induced neuronal network changes is pertinent to developing treatments that target abnormal neuronal activity.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0124141
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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