Neural effects of controllability as a key dimension of stress exposure

Emily M. Cohodes, Paola Odriozola, Jeffrey D. Mandell, Camila Caballero, Sarah McCauley, Sadie J. Zacharek, H. R. Hodges, Jason T. Haberman, MacKenzye Smith, Janeen Thomas, Olivia C. Meisner, Cameron T. Ellis, Catherine A. Hartley, Dylan G. Gee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cross-species evidence suggests that the ability to exert control over a stressor is a key dimension of stress exposure that may sensitize frontostriatal-amygdala circuitry to promote more adaptive responses to subsequent stressors. The present study examined neural correlates of stressor controllability in young adults. Participants (N = 56; M age = 23.74, range = 18-30 years) completed either the controllable or uncontrollable stress condition of the first of two novel stressor controllability tasks during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) acquisition. Participants in the uncontrollable stress condition were yoked to age- and sex-matched participants in the controllable stress condition. All participants were subsequently exposed to uncontrollable stress in the second task, which is the focus of fMRI analyses reported here. A whole-brain searchlight classification analysis revealed that patterns of activity in the right dorsal anterior insula (dAI) during subsequent exposure to uncontrollable stress could be used to classify participants' initial exposure to either controllable or uncontrollable stress with a peak of 73% accuracy. Previous experience of exerting control over a stressor may change the computations performed within the right dAI during subsequent stress exposure, shedding further light on the neural underpinnings of stressor controllability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-227
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 17 2023


  • control
  • frontolimbic circuitry
  • stress
  • stress reactivity
  • stressor controllability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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