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Neural Correlates of Emotional Reactivity in Sensation Seeking

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ABSTRACT

High sensation seeking has been linked to increased risk for drug abuse and other negative behavioral outcomes. This study explored the neurobiological basis of this personality trait using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). High sensation seekers (HSSs) and low sensation seekers (LSSs) viewed high- and low-arousal pictures. Comparison of the groups revealed that HSSs showed stronger fMRI responses to high-arousal stimuli in brain regions associated with arousal and reinforcement (right insula, posterior medial orbitofrontal cortex), whereas LSSs showed greater activation and earlier onset of fMRI responses to high-arousal stimuli in regions involved in emotional regulation (anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate). Furthermore, fMRI response in anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate was negatively correlated with urgency. Finally, LSSs showed greater sensitivity to the valence of the stimuli than did HSSs. These distinct neurobiological profiles suggest that HSSs exhibit neural responses consistent with an overactive approach system, whereas LSSs exhibit responses consistent with a stronger inhibitory system.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology and 2: Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, and 3: Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University

Publication date: 2009-02-01

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