Significant grey matter changes in a region of the orbitofrontal cortex in healthy participants predicts emotional dysregulation

P Petrovic, C J Ekman, J Klahr, L Tigerström, G Rydén, A G M Johansson, C Sellgren, A Golkar, A Olsson, A Öhman, M Ingvar, M Landén: Significant grey matter changes in a region of the orbitofrontal cortex in healthy participants predicts emotional dysregulation. In: Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11 (7), pp. 1041–1049, 2016.

Abstract

The traditional concept of ‘categorical' psychiatric disorders has been challenged as many of the symptoms display a continuous distribution in the general population. We suggest that this is the case for emotional dysregulation, a key component in several categorical psychiatric disorder constructs. We used voxel-based magnetic resonance imaging morphometry in healthy human subjects (n = ¼ 87) to study how self-reported subclinical symptoms associated with emotional dysregulation relate to brain regions assumed to be critical for emotion regulation. To measure a pure emotional dysregulation, we also corrected for subclinical symptoms of non-emotional attentional dysregulation. We show that such subclinical emotional symptoms correlate negatively with the grey matter volume of lateral orbitofrontal cortex bilaterally—a region assumed to be critical for emotion regulation and dysfunctional in psychiatric disorders involving emotional dysregulation. Importantly, this effect is mediated both by a decrease in volume associated with emotional dysregulation and an increase in volume due to non-emotional attentional dysregulation. Exploratory analysis suggests that other regions involved in emotional processing such as insula and ventral striatum also show a similar reduction in grey matter volume mirroring clinical disorders associated with emotional dysregulation. Our findings support the concept of continuous properties in psychiatric symptomatology.