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Scientists uncover new clues about brain function in human behavior

e brain, that have been implicated in decision-making, representation of social knowledge, and judgment. Those regions are the dorsolateral, the medial, and the orbitofrontal cortex. Specifically, the dorsolateral area is thought to establish and maintain social goals governing an interaction; the medial area has been associated with empathy and regulation of negative emotion; and orbitofrontal region is involved in assigning emotional values to a situation.

The researchers found a delicate network by which these three regions modulate amygdala activity. In Williams Syndrome, this fragile system was significantly abnormal, particularly the orbitofrontal cortex. This area did not activate for either task and was not functionally linked to the amygdala, as it was in healthy controls. Instead, the scientists observed increased activity and linkage in the medial region, which is consistent with the high level of empathy exhibited by people with Williams Syndrome.

"We had previously seen that the orbitofrontal cortex is structurally abnormal in Williams Syndrome, but we didn't know what role it played functionally in the disorder; it is now clear that this area can play a major role in producing social behavioral abnormalities," said Berman. "The over-activity of the medial-prefrontal cortex may be compensatory, but the result is still an abnormal fear response. The medial-prefrontal cortex still works and in fact it is working over-time because it may be the only thing that still regulates the amygdala in Williams Syndrome."


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Source:NIH/National Institute of Mental Health


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