Adults vs. neonates: Brain Scans Reveal Disconnect Between Visual, Emotional Regions in Newborns

Adults vs. neonates: Differentiation of functional connectivity between the basolateral amygdala and occipitotemporal cortex

  • Heather A. Hansen, 
  • Jin Li, 
  • Zeynep M. Saygin


The amygdala, a subcortical structure known for social and emotional processing, consists of multiple subnuclei with unique functions and connectivity patterns. Tracer studies in adult macaques have shown that the basolateral subnuclei differentially connect to parts of visual cortex, with stronger connections to anterior regions and weaker connections to posterior regions; infant macaques show robust connectivity even with posterior visual regions. Do these developmental differences also exist in the human amygdala, and are there specific functional regions that undergo the most pronounced developmental changes in their connections with the amygdala? To address these questions, we explored the functional connectivity (from resting-state fMRI data) of the basolateral amygdala to occipitotemporal cortex in human neonates scanned within one week of life and compared the connectivity patterns to those observed in young adults. Specifically, we calculated amygdala connectivity to anterior-posterior gradients of the anatomically-defined occipitotemporal cortex, and also to putative occipitotemporal functional parcels, including primary and high-level visual and auditory cortices (V1, A1, face, scene, object, body, high-level auditory regions). Results showed a decreasing gradient of functional connectivity to the occipitotemporal cortex in adults–similar to the gradient seen in macaque tracer studies–but no such gradient was observed in neonates. Further, adults had stronger connections to high-level functional regions associated with face, body, and object processing, and weaker connections to primary sensory regions (i.e., A1, V1), whereas neonates showed the same amount of connectivity to primary and high-level sensory regions. Overall, these results show that functional connectivity between the amygdala and occipitotemporal cortex is not yet differentiated in neonates, suggesting a role of maturation and experience in shaping these connections later in life.

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About S. R. Zelenz 102 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.