Selective neural sensitivity to familial threat in adolescents with weak family bonds

Paul B. Sharp, Wendy Heller, Eva H. Telzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Familial stressors, such as weak familial connectedness, are associated with the development of maladaptive threat processing, yet little is known regarding how weak familial bonds impinge on biological mechanisms of threat processing. The present study leveraged multivoxel pattern analysis of fMRI data to compare the neural encoding of familial and nonfamilial threatening and non-threatening stimuli in adolescents who endorsed varying levels of connectedness to their families. Adolescents (N = 22, Mage = 14.38 years) reporting lower family connectedness 1 year earlier showed elevated sensitivity to familial threat, but not to nonfamilial threat in a neural network associated with threat processing, comprising left and right amygdala, and right inferior and middle temporal gyri. Results suggest that a learning history about one’s social environment may shape neural mechanisms of threat processing by sensitizing them to risk-relevant stimuli. Such findings advance our understanding of how familial stressors contribute to disordered threat processing in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-89
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • MVPA
  • Threat
  • amygdala
  • fMRI
  • family stressor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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