Age-Related Differences in Amygdala Activation Associated With Face Trustworthiness but No Evidence of Oxytocin Modulation

Posted on 23.06.2022 - 15:47

The amygdala has been shown to be responsive to face trustworthiness. While older adults typically give higher face trustworthiness ratings than young adults, a direct link between amygdala response and age-related differences in face trustworthiness evaluation has not yet been confirmed. Additionally, there is a possible modulatory role of the neuropeptide oxytocin in face trustworthiness evaluation, but the results are mixed and effects unexplored in aging. To address these research gaps, young, and older adults were randomly assigned to oxytocin or placebo self-administration via a nasal spray before rating faces on trustworthiness while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. There was no overall age-group difference in face trustworthiness ratings, but older compared to young participants gave higher trustworthiness ratings to ambivalently untrustworthy-looking faces. In both age groups, lower face trustworthiness ratings were associated with higher left amygdala activity. A comparable negative linear association was observed in right amygdala but only among young participants. Also, in the right amygdala, lower and higher, compared to moderate, face trustworthiness ratings were associated with greater right amygdala activity (i.e., positive quadratic (U-shaped) association) for both age groups. Neither the behavioral nor the brain effects were modulated by a single dose of intranasal oxytocin administration, however. These results suggest dampened response to faces with lower trustworthiness among older compared to young adults, supporting the notion of reduced sensitivity to cues of untrustworthiness in aging. The findings also extend evidence of an age-related positivity effect to the evaluation of face trustworthiness.

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Lin, Tian; Pehlivanoglu, Didem; Ziaei, Maryam; Liu, Peiwei; Woods, Adam J.; Feifel, David; et al. (2022): Age-Related Differences in Amygdala Activation Associated With Face Trustworthiness but No Evidence of Oxytocin Modulation. Frontiers. Collection. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.838642
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