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Shared and Unique Neural Circuitry Underlying Temporally Unpredictable Threat and Reward Processing
thesisposted on 01.05.2021, 00:00 by Milena Radoman
Temporally unpredictable stimuli influence behavior across species, as previously demonstrated for sequences of simple threats and rewards with fixed or variable onset. Neuroimaging studies have identified a specific frontolimbic circuit that may become engaged during the anticipation of temporally unpredictable threat (U-threat). However, the neural mechanisms underlying processing of temporally unpredictable reward (U-reward) are incompletely understood. It is also unclear whether these processes are mediated by overlapping or distinct neural systems. These knowledge gaps are noteworthy given that disruptions within these neural systems may lead to maladaptive responding to uncertainty. Here, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from a sample of 159 young adults, we showed that anticipation of both U-threat and U-reward elicited activation in the right anterior insula, right ventral anterior nucleus of the thalamus and right inferior frontal gyrus. U-threat also activated the right posterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, relative to U-reward. In contrast, U-reward elicited activation in the right fusiform and left middle occipital gyrus, relative to U- threat. Although there is some overlap in the neural circuitry underlying anticipation of U-threat and U-reward, these processes appear to be largely mediated by distinct circuits. Future studies are needed to corroborate and extend these preliminary findings.