5 years ago

Amygdala Lesions Reduce Anxiety-like Behavior in a Human Benzodiazepine-Sensitive Approach–Avoidance Conflict Test

Rodent approach–avoidance conflict tests are common preclinical models of human anxiety disorder. Their translational validity mainly rests on the observation that anxiolytic drugs reduce rodent anxiety-like behavior. Here, we capitalized on a recently developed approach–avoidance conflict computer game to investigate the impact of benzodiazepines and of amygdala lesions on putative human anxiety-like behavior. In successive epochs of this game, participants collect monetary tokens on a spatial grid while under threat of virtual predation. Methods In a preregistered, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we tested the effect of a single dose (1 mg) of lorazepam (n = 59). We then compared 2 patients with bilateral amygdala lesions due to Urbach-Wiethe syndrome with age- and gender-matched control participants (n = 17). Based on a previous report, the primary outcome measure was the effect of intra-epoch time (i.e., an adaptation to increasing potential loss) on presence in the safe quadrant of the spatial grid. We hypothesized reduced loss adaptation in this measure under lorazepam and in patients with amygdala lesions. Results Lorazepam and amygdala lesions reduced loss adaptation in the primary outcome measure. We found similar results in several secondary outcome measures. The relative reduction of anxiety-like behavior in patients with amygdala lesions was qualitatively and quantitatively indistinguishable from an impact of anterior hippocampus lesions found in a previous report. Conclusions Our results establish the translational validity of human approach–avoidance conflict tests in terms of anxiolytic drug action. We identified the amygdala, in addition to the hippocampus, as a critical structure in human anxiety-like behavior.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0006322317300938

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