Background and purpose
Many studies have shown that exposure to life events can have a negative impact on mental health. Life events like the death of a spouse or the birth of a child pose a challenge and require temporal or permanent adjustments. Meta-analyses on brain stress responses found bilateral anterior insula activation in response to acute stress. Fear conditioning is assumed a crucial mechanism for the development of anxiety disorders associated with increased activation in the bilateral amygdala. Empirical evidence is lacking regarding the relationship of exposure to recent life events and past childhood adversity with neural processing during fear conditioning.
In the present study, we analyzed data from 103 young, healthy participants. Multiple linear regressions were performed on functional magnetic resonance imaging activation during fear conditioning with the Life Events Scale for Students and the Childhood Trauma questionnaire included as covariates in two separate models.
We found a positive relationship between the number of life events in the last year and left amygdala activation to the conditioned stimulus. A second finding was a positive relationship between childhood adversity and right anterior insula response to the unconditioned stimulus.
Many studies have shown increased amygdala activity after stressful life events. In addition, the anterior insula is activated during acute stress. The present study points to stressor-induced increased salience processing during fear conditioning. We suggest that this could be a potential mechanism for resilience versus mental illness.

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This post is Copyright: Miriam Kampa,
Rudolf Stark,
Tim Klucken | March 11, 2024
Wiley: Journal of Neuroimaging: Table of Contents