The hippocampus has long been considered a pivotal region implicated in both stress susceptibility and resilience. A wealth of evidence from animal and human studies underscores the significance of hippocampal functional connectivity with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) in these stress-related processes. However, there remains a scarcity of research that explores and contrasts the roles of hippocampus-vmPFC connectivity in stress susceptibility and resilience when facing a real-life traumatic event from a prospective standpoint. In the present study, we investigated the contributions of undirected and directed connectivity between the hippocampus and vmPFC to stress susceptibility and resilience within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings revealed that the left hippocampus-left vmPFC connectivity prior to the pandemic exhibited a negative correlation with both stress susceptibility and resilience. Specifically, individuals with stronger left hippocampus-left vmPFC connectivity reported experiencing fewer stress-related feelings during the outbreak period of the epidemic but displayed lower levels of stress resilience five months later. Our application of spectral dynamic causal modeling unveiled an additional inhibitory connectivity pathway from the left hippocampus to the left vmPFC in the context of stress susceptibility, which was notably absent in stress resilience. Furthermore, we observed a noteworthy positive association between self-inhibition of the vmPFC and stress susceptibility, with this effect proving substantial enough to predict an individual's susceptibility to stress; conversely, these patterns did not manifest in the realm of stress resilience. These findings enrich our comprehension of stress susceptibility and stress resilience and might have implications for innovative approaches to managing stress-related disorders.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Molecular Biology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Stress resilience
- Stress susceptibility
- Ventromedial prefrontal cortex