Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Christine L Larson

Committee Members

Hanjoo Lee, Krista Lisdahl

Keywords

anxiety, functional connectivity, harm avoidance, insula

Abstract

As an index of behavioral inhibition and an individual’s propensity to avoid, rather than seek, potentially dangerous situations, harm avoidance has been linked to internalizing psychopathology. Altered connectivity within intrinsic functional neural networks has been linked to internalizing psychopathology; however, less is known about the effects of harm avoidance on functional connectivity within and between these networks. Importantly, harm avoidance may be distinguishable from trait anxiety and have clinical relevance as a risk factor for psychopathology. To this end, the current study aimed to examine associations between harm avoidance and resting state functional connectivity. A sample of undergraduate students (n=92) completed a resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan and self-report measures of harm avoidance and trait anxiety. Results indicated a main effect of harm avoidance on functional connectivity, such that higher harm avoidance was associated with decreased connectivity between the right anterior insula and clusters in the precuneus/PCC, left lateral parietal lobe, and left superior/middle frontal gyrus. Higher harm avoidance was also associated with decreased connectivity between the left anterior insula and precuneus/PCC. There were no effects of trait anxiety on functional connectivity of the anterior insula. Overall, the results indicate that individual differences in harm avoidance relate to disruptions in internetwork connectivity that may contribute to deficits in appropriately modulating attentional focus.

Available for download on Friday, June 14, 2019

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