November 25, 2020

Adults vs. neonates: Differentiation of functional connectivity between the basolateral amygdala and occipitotemporal cortex

The amygdala, a subcortical structure known for social and emotional processing, consists of multiple subnuclei with unique functions and connectivity patterns. Tracer studies in adult macaques have shown that the basolateral subnuclei differentially connect to parts of visual cortex, with stronger connections to anterior regions and weaker connections to posterior regions; infant macaques show robust connectivity even with posterior visual regions. Do these developmental differences also exist in the human amygdala, and are there specific functional regions that undergo the most pronounced developmental changes in their connections with the amygdala? To address these questions, we explored the functional connectivity (from resting-state fMRI data) of the basolateral amygdala to occipitotemporal cortex in human neonates scanned within one week of life and compared the connectivity patterns to those observed in young adults. Specifically, we calculated amygdala connectivity to anterior-posterior gradients of the anatomically-defined occipitotemporal cortex, and also to putative occipitotemporal functional parcels, including primary and high-level visual and auditory cortices (V1, A1, face, scene, object, body, high-level auditory regions). Results showed a decreasing gradient of functional connectivity to the occipitotemporal cortex in adults – similar to the gradient seen in macaque tracer studies – but no such gradient was observed in neonates. Further, adults had stronger connections to high-level functional regions associated with face, body, and object processing, and weaker connections to primary sensory regions (i.e., A1, V1), whereas neonates showed the same amount of connectivity to primary and high-level sensory regions. Overall, these results show that functional connectivity between the amygdala and occipitotemporal cortex is not yet differentiated in neonates, suggesting a role of maturation and experience in shaping these connections later in life.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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