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functional connectivity, harm avoidance, anxiety, resting-state, personality


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 (i.e., default mode [DMN], central executive [CEN] and salience networks [SN]) has been related 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 internalizing psychopathology. A sample of young adults (n = 99) completed a resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan and self-report measures of harm avoidance and trait anxiety. Whole brain seed-to-voxel and seed-to-network connectivity analyses were conducted using anterior insula seeds to examine associations between harm avoidance/trait anxiety and connectivity. After adjusting for sex and age, there was a significant negative effect of harm avoidance on connectivity between the anterior insula and clusters in the precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) left superior/middle frontal gyrus, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and bilateral inferior parietal lobule (IPL)/angular gyrus. Seed-to-network analyses indicated a negative effect of harm avoidance on connectivity between the right anterior insula and anterior and posterior DMN. 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.

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