Guanfacine modulates the emotional biasing of amygdala-prefrontal connectivity for cognitive control

Kurt P. Schulz, Suzanne M. Clerkin, Jeffrey H. Newcorn, Jeffrey M. Halperin, Jin Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Functional interactions between amygdala and prefrontal cortex provide a cortical entry point for emotional cues to bias cognitive control. Stimulation of α2 adrenoceptors enhances the prefrontal control functions and blocks the amygdala-dependent encoding of emotional cues. However, the impact of this stimulation on amygdala-prefrontal interactions and the emotional biasing of cognitive control have not been established. We tested the effect of the α2 adrenoceptor agonist guanfacine on psychophysiological interactions of amygdala with prefrontal cortex for the emotional biasing of response execution and inhibition. Fifteen healthy adults were scanned twice with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing an emotional go/no-go task following administration of oral guanfacine (1mg) and placebo in a double-blind, counterbalanced design. Happy, sad, and neutral faces served as trial cues. Guanfacine moderated the effect of face emotion on the task-related functional connectivity of left and right amygdala with left inferior frontal gyrus compared to placebo, by selectively reversing the functional co-activation of the two regions for response execution cued by sad faces. This shift from positively to negatively correlated activation for guanfacine was associated with selective improvements in the relatively low accuracy of responses to sad faces seen for placebo. These results demonstrate the importance of functional interactions between amygdala and inferior frontal gyrus to both bottom-up biasing of cognitive control and top-down control of emotional processing, as well as for the α2 adrenoceptor-mediated modulation of these processes. These mechanisms offer a possibile method to address the emotional reactivity that is common to several psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1444-1453
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • FMRI
  • Go/no-go
  • Guanfacine
  • Prefrontal cortex


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