In recent years, an increasing number of neuroimaging studies have sought to identify the brain anomalies associated with mood and anxiety disorders. The results of such studies could have significant implications for the development of novel treatments for these disorders. A challenge currently facing the field is to assimilate the large and growing corpus of imaging data to inform a systems-level model of the neural circuitry underlying the disorders. One prominent theoretical perspective highlights the top-down inhibition of amygdala by ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as a crucial neural mechanism that may be defective in certain mood and anxiety disorders, such as major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In this article, we provide a critical review of animal and human data related to this model. In particular, we emphasize the considerable body of research that challenges the veracity (or at least completeness) of the predominant model. We propose a framework for constructing a more comprehensive model of vmPFC function, with the goal of fostering further progress in understanding the neuropathophysiological basis of mood and anxiety disorders.
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