A Neural Biomarker of Psychological Vulnerability to Future Life Stress
Ahmad R. Hariri, Johnna R. Swartz, Spenser R. Radtke, Annchen R. Knodt
We all experience a host of common life stressors such as the death of a family member, medical illness, and financial uncertainty. While most of us are resilient to such stressors, continuing to function normally, for a subset of individuals, experiencing these stressors increases the likelihood of developing treatment-resistant, chronic psychological problems, including depression and anxiety. It is thus paramount to identify predictive markers of risk, particularly those reflecting fundamental biological processes that can be targets for intervention and prevention. Using data from a longitudinal study of 340 healthy young adults, we demonstrate that individual differences in threat-related amygdala reactivity predict psychological vulnerability to life stress occurring as much as 1 to 4 years later. These results highlight a readily assayed biomarker, threat-related amygdala reactivity, which predicts psychological vulnerability to commonly experienced stressors and represents a discrete target for intervention and prevention.
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