Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Resting state fMRI may help identify markers of risk for affective disorder. Given the comorbidity of anxiety and depressive disorders and the heterogeneity of these disorders as defined by DSM, an important challenge is to identify alterations in resting state brain connectivity uniquely associated with distinct profiles of negative affect. The current study aimed to address this by identifying differences in brain connectivity specifically linked to cognitive and physiological profiles of anxiety, controlling for depressed affect. We adopted a two-stage multivariate approach. Hierarchical clustering was used to independently identify dimensions of negative affective style and resting state brain networks. Combining the clustering results, we examined individual differences in resting state connectivity uniquely associated with subdimensions of anxious affect, controlling for depressed affect. Physiological and cognitive subdimensions of anxious affect were identified. Physiological anxiety was associated with widespread alterations in insula connectivity, including decreased connectivity between insula subregions and between the insula and other medial frontal and subcortical networks. This is consistent with the insula facilitating communication between medial frontal and subcortical regions to enable control of physiological affective states. Meanwhile, increased connectivity within a frontoparietal–posterior cingulate cortex–precunous network was specifically associated with cognitive anxiety, potentially reflecting increased spontaneous negative cognition (e.g., worry). These findings suggest that physiological and cognitive anxiety comprise subdimensions of anxiety-related affect and reveal associated alterations in brain connectivity.