Dr Natalia Lawrence
Senior Lecturer (in Translational Medicine)

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Key publications



Caseras, X., Lawrence, N.S., Murphy, K., Wise, R.G., Phillips, M.L. (2013). Ventral striatum activity in response to reward: differences between bipolar I and II disorders. Am J Psychiatry, 170(5), 533-541.

Abstract:
Ventral striatum activity in response to reward: differences between bipolar I and II disorders.

Little is known about the neurobiology of bipolar II disorder. While bipolar I disorder is associated with abnormally elevated activity in response to reward in the ventral striatum, a key component of reward circuitry, no studies have compared reward circuitry function in bipolar I and bipolar II disorders. Furthermore, associations among reward circuitry activity, reward sensitivity, and striatal volume remain underexplored in bipolar and healthy individuals. The authors examined reward activity in the ventral striatum in participants with bipolar I and II disorders and healthy individuals, the relationships between ventral striatal activity and reward sensitivity across all participants, and between-group differences in striatal gray matter volume and relationships with ventral striatal activity across all participants.
 Abstract.  Author URL
Lawrence, N.S., Hinton, E.C., Parkinson, J.A., Lawrence, A.D. (2012). Nucleus accumbens response to food cues predicts subsequent snack consumption in women and increased body mass index in those with reduced self-control. Neuroimage, 63(1), 415-422.

Abstract:
Nucleus accumbens response to food cues predicts subsequent snack consumption in women and increased body mass index in those with reduced self-control.

Individuals have difficulty controlling their food consumption, which is due in part to the ubiquity of tempting food cues in the environment. Individual differences in the propensity to attribute incentive (motivational) salience to and act on these cues may explain why some individuals eat more than others. Using fMRI in healthy women, we found that food cue related activity in the nucleus accumbens, a key brain region for food motivation and reward, was related to subsequent snack food consumption. However, both nucleus accumbens activation and snack food consumption were unrelated to self-reported hunger, or explicit wanting and liking for the snack. In contrast, food cue reactivity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex was associated with subjective hunger/appetite, but not with consumption. Whilst the food cue reactivity in the nucleus accumbens that predicted snack consumption was not directly related to body mass index (BMI), it was associated with increased BMI in individuals reporting low self-control. Our findings reveal a neural substrate underpinning automatic environmental influences on consumption in humans and demonstrate how self-control interacts with this response to predict BMI. Our data provide support for theoretical models that advocate a 'dual hit' of increased incentive salience attribution to food cues and poor self-control in determining vulnerability to overeating and overweight.
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Jollant, F., Lawrence, N.S., Olie, E., O'Daly, O., Malafosse, A., Courtet, P., Phillips, M.L. (2010). Decreased activation of lateral orbitofrontal cortex during risky choices under uncertainty is associated with disadvantageous decision-making and suicidal behavior. Neuroimage, 51(3), 1275-1281.

Abstract:
Decreased activation of lateral orbitofrontal cortex during risky choices under uncertainty is associated with disadvantageous decision-making and suicidal behavior.

Decision-making impairment has been linked to orbitofrontal cortex lesions and to different disorders including substance abuse, aggression and suicidal behavior. Understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms of these impairments could facilitate the development of effective treatments. In the current study, we aimed to explore the neural and cognitive basis of poor decision-making ability associated with the vulnerability to suicidal behavior, a public health issue in most western countries. Twenty-five not currently depressed male patients, 13 of whom had a history of suicidal acts (suicide attempters) and 12 of whom had none (affective controls), performed an adapted version of the Iowa Gambling Task during functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Task-related functional Regions-of-Interest were independently defined in 15 male healthy controls performing the same task (Lawrence et al., 2009). In comparison to affective controls, suicide attempters showed 1) poorer performance on the gambling task 2) decreased activation during risky relative to safe choices in left lateral orbitofrontal and occipital cortices 3) no difference for the contrast between wins and losses. Altered processing of risk under conditions of uncertainty, associated with left lateral orbitofrontal cortex dysfunction, could explain the decision-making deficits observed in suicide attempters. These impaired cognitive and neural processes may represent future predictive markers and therapeutic targets in a field where identification of those at risk is poor and specific treatments are lacking. These results also add to our growing understanding of the role of the orbitofrontal cortex in decision-making and psychopathology.
 Abstract.  Author URL
Lawrence, N.S., Jollant, F., O'Daly, O., Zelaya, F., Phillips, M.L. (2009). Distinct roles of prefrontal cortical subregions in the Iowa Gambling Task. Cereb Cortex, 19(5), 1134-1143.

Abstract:
Distinct roles of prefrontal cortical subregions in the Iowa Gambling Task.

The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) assesses decision-making under initially ambiguous conditions. Neuropsychological and neuroimaging data suggest, albeit inconsistently, the involvement of numerous prefrontal cortical regions in task performance. To clarify the contributions of different prefrontal regions, we developed and validated a version of the IGT specifically modified for event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. General decision-making in healthy males elicited activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Choices from disadvantageous versus advantageous card decks produced activation in the medial frontal gyrus, lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and insula. Moreover, activation in these regions, along with the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and secondary somatosensory cortex, was positively associated with task performance. Lateral OFC and pre-SMA activation also showed a significant modulation over time, suggesting a role in learning. Striato-thalamic regions responded to wins more than losses. These results both replicate and add to previous findings and help to reconcile inconsistencies in neuropsychological data. They reveal that deciding advantageously under initially ambiguous conditions may require both continuous and dynamic processes involving both the ventral and dorsal prefrontal cortex.
 Abstract.  Author URL
An, S.K., Mataix-Cols, D., Lawrence, N.S., Wooderson, S., Giampietro, V., Speckens, A., Brammer, M.J., Phillips, M.L. (2009). To discard or not to discard: the neural basis of hoarding symptoms in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mol Psychiatry, 14(3), 318-331.

Abstract:
To discard or not to discard: the neural basis of hoarding symptoms in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Preliminary neuroimaging studies suggest that patients with the 'compulsive hoarding syndrome' may be a neurobiologically distinct variant of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but further research is needed. A total of 29 OCD patients (13 with and 16 without prominent hoarding symptoms) and 21 healthy controls of both sexes participated in two functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments consisting of the provocation of hoarding-related and symptom-unrelated (aversive control) anxiety. In response to the hoarding-related (but not symptom-unrelated) anxiety provocation, OCD patients with prominent hoarding symptoms showed greater activation in bilateral anterior ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) than patients without hoarding symptoms and healthy controls. In the entire patient group (n=29), provoked anxiety was positively correlated with activation in a frontolimbic network that included the anterior VMPFC, medial temporal structures, thalamus and sensorimotor cortex. Negative correlations were observed in the left dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus, bilateral temporal cortex, bilateral dorsolateral/medial prefrontal regions, basal ganglia and parieto-occipital regions. These results were independent from the effects of age, sex, level of education, state anxiety, depression, comorbidity and use of medication. The findings are consistent with the animal and lesion literature and several landmark clinical features of compulsive hoarding, particularly decision-making difficulties. Whether the results are generalizable to hoarders who do not meet criteria for OCD remains to be investigated.
 Abstract.  Author URL
Jollant, F., Lawrence, N.S., Giampietro, V., Brammer, M.J., Fullana, M.A., Drapier, D., Courtet, P., Phillips, M.L. (2008). Orbitofrontal cortex response to angry faces in men with histories of suicide attempts. American Journal of Psychiatry, 165(6), 740-748. Author URL

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