Abstract

Individual differences in arousal experience have been linked to differences in resting-state salience network connectivity strength. In this study, we investigated how adding task-related skin conductance responses (SCR), a measure of sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, can predict additional variance in arousal experience. Thirty-nine young adults rated their subjective experience of arousal to emotionally evocative images while SCRs were measured. They also underwent a separate resting-state fMRI scan. Greater SCR reactivity (an increased number of task-related SCRs) to emotional images and stronger intrinsic salience network connectivity independently predicted more intense experiences of arousal. Salience network connectivity further moderated the effect of SCR reactivity: In individuals with weak salience network connectivity, SCR reactivity more significantly predicted arousal experience, whereas in those with strong salience network connectivity, SCR reactivity played little role in predicting arousal experience. This interaction illustrates the degeneracy in neural mechanisms driving individual differences in arousal experience and highlights the intricate interplay between connectivity in central visceromotor neural circuitry and peripherally expressed autonomic responses in shaping arousal experience.

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