Characterizing abnormal neural networks in anxious dogs

Summary: Anxious dogs have stronger neural connections between the amygdala and other areas of the anxiety network in the brain compared to less anxious dogs.

Source: OLP

Researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium report abnormalities in the functional neural networks of dogs diagnosed with anxiety.

Led by Yangfeng Xu (Ghent Experimental Psychiatry Lab, GHEP; ORSAMI) and Emma Christiaen (Medical Image and Signal Processing, MEDISIP), the study shows that compared to healthy dogs, those with anxiety show stronger links between the amygdala and other regions of the anxious network.

Posted in PLOS ONE March 15, the findings could also help reveal how functional connections between anxiety-related brain regions are altered in human anxiety disorders.

Animal models of anxiety are an important tool for studying anxiety disorders, and the results can benefit both veterinary and human medicine. However, the many different aspects of anxiety cannot all be studied effectively in the same animal model.

While rodents are often studied, this new study takes advantage of the larger brains and larger cortex found in dogs to characterize neural networks associated with anxiety. 25 healthy dogs and 13 anxious dogs were offered by their owners and examined by noninvasive functional MRI (fMRI).

The dogs were treated in accordance with all necessary welfare guidelines, ensuring that they did not experience any negative consequences of the study. The researchers studied the resting state of dogs with and without anxiety, comparing measures of network and connectivity between groups, and determining their associations with anxiety symptoms.

This shows a cute dog
Animal models of anxiety are an important tool for studying anxiety disorders, and the results can benefit both veterinary and human medicine. Image is in public domain

Resting-state fMRI indicated that functional connections between the amygdala and other parts of the anxiety circuitry, particularly the hippocampus, were stronger than normal in anxious dogs.

In the anxiety circuit, network measures, including global and local efficacy, were higher in the amygdala of anxious dogs. Dogs that exhibited fear and anxiety of strangers, as well as excitability, were more likely to have brains with abnormal network parameters in the amygdala.

The researchers believe their findings show that resting-state fMRI is a good tool for studying canine models of anxiety, and that future studies like this could improve our understanding of how the circuits linked to anxiety in the brain are altered in animals with anxiety disorders. and possibly even humans with the disease.

The authors add: “In this manuscript, we constructed functional brain networks using graph theory metrics to compare differences between groups of anxious and healthy dogs.

“Our findings could provide more insight into the topological organization of the functional brain connectome in anxiety disorder, thereby leading to a better understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms and disease course of anxiety in animals and humans. and assist in the development of more personalized and effective therapies.”

About this Anxiety and Animal Psychology Research News

Author: Press office
Source: OLP
Contact: Press office – PLOS
Picture: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
“Network Analysis Reveals Abnormal Functional Brain Circuits in Anxious Dogs” by Yangfeng Xu et al. PLOS ONE


Network analysis reveals abnormal functional brain circuits in anxious dogs

Anxiety is a common condition in human psychiatric disorders and has also been described as a common neuropsychiatric problem in dogs. Human neuroimaging studies have shown that abnormal functional brain networks may be involved in anxiety.

In this study, we expected that similar changes in network topology would also be present in dogs. We performed functional resting-state MRI on 25 healthy dogs and 13 patients.

The generic Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire was used to assess anxiety symptoms. We constructed functional brain networks and used graph theory to compare differences between two groups. No significant differences in the global network topology were found.

However, when focusing on the anxiety circuit, global efficiency and local efficiency were significantly higher, and the characteristic path length was significantly lower in the amygdala in patients.

We detected higher connectivity between amygdala-hippocampus, amygdala-midbrain, amygdala-thalamus, frontal lobe-hippocampus, frontal lobe-thalamus and hippocampus-thalamus, all part of the circuit of anxiety. Additionally, correlations between network measures and anxiety symptoms were significant.

Altered network measures in the amygdala were correlated with stranger-directed fear and excitability; altered degree in the hippocampus was related to attachment/attention seeking, trainability, and sensitivity to touch; abnormal frontal lobe function was related to the pursuit and aggression of familiar dogs; attachment/attention seeking was correlated with functional connectivity between amygdala-hippocampus and amygdala-thalamus; pet dog aggression was related to changing global network topology.

These findings may shed light on the aberrant topological organization of functional brain networks underlying anxiety in dogs.

Leave a Comment