Newborn amygdala connectivity and early emerging fear

Elina Thomas, Claudia Buss, Jerod M. Rasmussen, Sonja Entringer, Julian S.B. Ramirez, Mollie Marr, Marc D. Rudolph, John H. Gilmore, Martin Styner, Pathik D. Wadhwa, Damien A. Fair, Alice M. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Connectivity between the amygdala, insula (Amygdala-aI) and ventral medial prefrontal cortex (Amygdala-vmPFC) have been implicated in individual variability in fear and vulnerability to psychiatric disorders. However, it is currently unknown to what extent connectivity between these regions in the newborn period is relevant for the development of fear and other aspects of negative emotionality (NE), such as sadness. Here, we investigate newborn Am-Ins and Am-vmPFC resting state functional connectivity in relation to developmental trajectories of fear and sadness over the first two years of life using data from the Infant Behavior Questionnaire Revised (IBQ-R) and Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire (ECBQ) (N=62). Stronger newborn amygdala connectivity predicts higher fear and sadness at 6-months-of-age and less change from 6 to 24-months-of-age. Interestingly, Am-Ins connectivity was specifically relevant for fear and not sadness, while Am-vmPFC was associated only with sadness. Associations remained consistent after considering variation in maternal sensitivity and maternal postnatal depressive symptomology. Already by the time of birth, individual differences in amygdala connectivity are relevant for the expression of fear over the first two-years-of-life. Additionally, specificity is observed, such that connections relevant for fear development are distinct from those predicting sadness trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100604
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this work was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (grant numbers NIMH R01 MH091351 , Supplement to NIMH R01 MH091351 , NIMH K99 MH111805 ); the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers NIH R01 MH-105538 , NIH R01 HD-060628 , UG3-OD-O23349 ); the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations (grant: Early Markers to Predict Cognition and Brain Development); NIH/NIMH (grant numbers R00 MH091238 and R01 MH096773 ). The authors report no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.


  • Amygdala
  • Development
  • Fear
  • Infancy
  • Resting state fMRI
  • Sadness

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