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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Emotion regulation, Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Cardiovascular disease (CVD), Carotid artery intima-media thickness (CA-IMT)


This study tested whether brain activity patterns evoked by affective stimuli relate to individual differences in an indicator of pre-clinical atherosclerosis: carotid artery intima-media thickness (CA-IMT). Adults (aged 30–54 years) completed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tasks that involved viewing three sets of affective stimuli. Two sets included facial expressions of emotion, and one set included neutral and unpleasant images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Cross-validated, multivariate and machine learning models showed that individual differences in CA-IMT were partially predicted by brain activity patterns evoked by unpleasant IAPS images, even after accounting for age, sex and known cardiovascular disease risk factors. CA-IMT was also predicted by brain activity patterns evoked by angry and fearful faces from one of the two stimulus sets of facial expressions, but this predictive association did not persist after accounting for known cardiovascular risk factors. The reliability (internal consistency) of brain activity patterns evoked by affective stimuli may have constrained their prediction of CA-IMT. Distributed brain activity patterns could comprise affective neural correlates of pre-clinical atherosclerosis; however, the interpretation of such correlates may depend on their psychometric properties, as well as the influence of other cardiovascular risk factors and specific affective cues.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the authors. Published by Oxford University Press. User is responsible for all copyright compliance. This article was originally published as:

Gianaros, P. J., Kraynak, T. E., Kuan, D. C., Gross, J. J., McRae, K., Hariri, A. R., ... & Verstynen, T. D. (2020). Affective brain patterns as multivariate neural correlates of cardiovascular disease risk. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 15(10), 1034-1045.

Rights Holder

Peter J. Gianaros, Thomas E. Kraynak, Dora C.-H. Kuan, James J. Gross, Kateri McRae, Ahmad R. Hariri, Stephen B. Manuck, Javier Rasero, and Timothy D. Verstynen


Received from author

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English (eng)


12 pgs

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766 KB

Publication Title

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience



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