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Sex differences in brain activity during aversive visceral stimulation





Neuroimage. 2008 Mar 20 [Epub ahead of print]


Sex differences in brain activity during aversive visceral stimulation and its expectation in patients with chronic abdominal pain: A network analysis.


Labus JS, Naliboff BN, Fallon J, Berman SM, Suyenobu B, Bueller JA, Mandelkern M, Mayer EA. Center for Neurobiology of Stress, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, USA; Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, USA; Brain Research Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, USA.



Differences in brain responses to aversive visceral stimuli may underlie previously reported sex differences in symptoms as well as perceptual and emotional responses to such stimuli in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The goal of the current study was to identify brain networks activated by expected and delivered aversive visceral stimuli in male and female patients with chronic abdominal pain, and to test for sex differences in the effective connectivity of the circuitry comprising these networks. Network analysis was applied to assess the brain response of 46 IBS patients (22 men and 24 women) recorded using [(15)O] water positron emission tomography during rest/baseline and expected and delivered aversive rectal distension. Functional connectivity results from partial least squares analyses provided support for the hypothesized involvement of 3 networks corresponding to: 1) visceral afferent information processing (thalamus, insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, orbital frontal cortex), 2) emotional-arousal (amygdala, rostral and subgenual cingulate regions, and locus coeruleus complex) and 3) cortical modulation (frontal and parietal cortices). Effective connectivity results obtained via structural equation modeling indicated that sex-related differences in brain response are largely due to alterations in the effective connectivity of emotional-arousal circuitry rather than visceral afferent processing circuits. Sex differences in the cortico-limbic circuitry involved in emotional-arousal, pain facilitation and autonomic responses may underlie the observed differences in symptoms, and in perceptual and emotional responses to aversive visceral stimuli.









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