The first year of life is an important period for emergence of fear in humans. While animal models have revealed developmental changes in amygdala circuitry accompanying emerging fear, human neural systems involved in early fear development remain poorly understood. To increase understanding of the neural foundations of human fear, it is important to consider parallel cognitive development, which may modulate associations between typical development of early fear and subsequent risk for fear-related psychopathology. We, therefore, examined amygdala functional connectivity with rs-fcMRI in 48 neonates (M = 3.65 weeks, SD = 1.72), and measured fear and cognitive development at 6-months-of-age. Stronger, positive neonatal amygdala connectivity to several regions, including bilateral anterior insula and ventral striatum, was prospectively associated with higher fear at 6-months. Stronger amygdala connectivity to ventral anterior cingulate/anterior medial prefrontal cortex predicted a specific phenotype of higher fear combined with more advanced cognitive development. Overall, findings demonstrate unique profiles of neonatal amygdala functional connectivity related to emerging fear and cognitive development, which may have implications for normative and pathological fear in later years. Consideration of infant fear in the context of cognitive development will likely contribute to a more nuanced understanding of fear, its neural bases, and its implications for future mental health.
- Cognitive development
- Resting state fMRI