Context-dependent amygdala-prefrontal connectivity during the dot-probe task varies by irritability and attention bias to angry faces

Reut Naim, Simone P Haller, Julia O Linke, Allison Jaffe, Joel Stoddard, Matt Jones, Anita Harrewijn, Katharina Kircanski, Yair Bar-Haim, Melissa A Brotman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Irritability, defined as proneness to anger, is among the most common reasons youth are seen for psychiatric care. Youth with irritability demonstrate aberrant processing of anger-related stimuli; however, the neural mechanisms remain unknown. We applied a drift-diffusion model (DDM), a computational tool, to derive a latent behavioral metric of attentional bias to angry faces in youth with varying levels of irritability during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We examined associations among irritability, task behavior using a DDM-based index for preferential allocation of attention to angry faces (i.e., extra-decisional time bias; Δt 0), and amygdala context-dependent connectivity during the dot-probe task. Our transdiagnostic sample, enriched for irritability, included 351 youth (ages 8–18; M = 12.92 years, 51% male, with primary diagnoses of either attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], disruptive mood dysregulation disorder [DMDD], an anxiety disorder, or healthy controls). Models accounted for age, sex, in-scanner motion, and co-occurring symptoms of anxiety. Youth and parents rated youth’s irritability using the Affective Reactivity Index. An fMRI dot-probe task was used to assess attention orienting to angry faces. In the angry-incongruent vs. angry-congruent contrast, amygdala connectivity with the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), insula, caudate, and thalamus/pulvinar was modulated by irritability level and attention bias to angry faces, Δt 0, all ts 350 > 4.46, ps < 0.001. In youth with high irritability, elevated Δt 0 was associated with a weaker amygdala connectivity. In contrast, in youth with low irritability, elevated Δt 0 was associated with stronger connectivity in those regions. No main effect emerged for irritability. As irritability is associated with reactive aggression, these results suggest a potential neural regulatory deficit in irritable youth who have elevated attention bias to angry cues.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date1 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


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