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"Individual differences in associative learning, intrinsic connectivity, and neural reactivity: Support for a cerebellar role in anxiety vulnerability"

Meghan Davis Caulfield
Integrative Neurosciences Program
B.A. 2006, Lafayette College
M.S. 2009, Villanova University

Thesis Advisor: Richard J. Servatius, Ph.D.
Department of Neurology and Neurosciences

Thursday, April 24, 2014
9:30 AM, Department of Veterans Affairs, East Orange,Main Conference Room, 11th Floor


Behavioral inhibition is a risk factor for the development of anxiety disorders, yet the neural substrates underlying the transition to clinical anxiety are unknown. Increasingly, the cerebellum is gaining recognition for its role in non-motor processes including executive functions such as avoidance and emotion. However, no work to date has examined the cerebellum as a possible neural substrate underlying behavioral inhibition. In the present work, a stress-diathesis approach is utilized to examine behavioral inhibition as a factor contributing to increased vulnerability to anxiety disorders. Inhibited individuals demonstrate facilitated acquisition in cerebellar-dependent associative learning tasks, increased cerebellar connectivity with executive intrinsic connectivity networks, and individual differences in reactivity to visual presentations of faces and scenes, suggesting a cerebellar role in anxiety vulnerability. These findings are placed within the context of cerebro-cerebellar circuitry in an attempt to understand how behavioral inhibition may modulate behavioral and neural reactivity in response to their environment, influencing the development of anxiety disorders.

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