Biological Psychiatry ( IF 12.095 ) Pub Date : 2019-07-25 , DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.07.007 Feng Zhou,Yayuan Geng,Fei Xin,Jialin Li,Pan Feng,Congcong Liu,Weihua Zhao,Tingyong Feng,Adam J Guastella,Richard P Ebstein,Keith M Kendrick,Benjamin Becker
Deficient extinction learning and threat adaptation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)-amygdala circuitry strongly impede the efficacy of exposure-based interventions in anxiety disorders. Recent animal models suggest a regulatory role of the renin-angiotensin system in both these processes. Against this background, the present randomized placebo-controlled pharmacologic functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment aimed at determining the extinction enhancing potential of the angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonist losartan (LT) in humans.
Seventy healthy male subjects underwent Pavlovian threat conditioning and received single-dose LT (50 mg) or placebo administration before extinction. Psychophysiological threat reactivity (skin conductance response) and neural activity during extinction served as primary outcomes. Psychophysiological interaction, voxelwise mediation, and novel multivariate pattern classification analyses were used to determine the underlying neural mechanisms.
LT significantly accelerated the decline of the psychophysiological threat response during within-session extinction learning. On the neural level, the acceleration was accompanied and critically mediated by threat-specific enhancement of vmPFC activation. Furthermore, LT enhanced vmPFC-basolateral amygdala coupling and attenuated the neural threat expression, particularly in the vmPFC, during early extinction.
Overall the results indicate that LT facilitates within-session threat memory extinction by augmenting threat-specific encoding in the vmPFC and its regulatory control over the amygdala. The findings document a pivotal role of angiotensin regulation of extinction learning in humans and suggest that adjunct LT administration has the potential to facilitate the efficacy of exposure-based interventions in anxiety disorders.