Acute stress shifts the brain into a state that fosters rapid defense mechanisms. Stress-related neuromodulators are thought to trigger this change by altering properties of large-scale neural populations throughout the brain. We investigated this brain-state shift in humans. During exposure to a fear-related acute stressor, responsiveness and interconnectivity within a network including cortical (frontoinsular, dorsal anterior cingulate, inferotemporal, and temporoparietal) and subcortical (amygdala, thalamus, hypothalamus, and midbrain) regions increased as a function of stress response magnitudes. β-adrenergic receptor blockade, but not cortisol synthesis inhibition, diminished this increase. Thus, our findings reveal that noradrenergic activation during acute stress results in prolonged coupling within a distributed network that integrates information exchange between regions involved in autonomic-neuroendocrine control and vigilant attentional reorienting.
Hermans, E. J., Van Marle, H. J. F., Ossewaarde, L., Henckens, M. J. A. G., Qin, S., Van Kesteren, M. T. R., … Fernández, G. (2011). Stress-related noradrenergic activity prompts large-scale neural network reconfiguration. Science, 334(6059), 1151–1153. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1209603