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J Psychiatr Res. 2008 Mar;42(4):268-77. Epub 2007 Apr 2.

Diminished rostral anterior cingulate activity in response to threat-related events in posttraumatic stress disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea.



Previous brain imaging studies have reported hyperactivation of the amygdala and hypoactivation of the anterior cingulate in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients, which is believed to be an underlying neural mechanism of the PTSD symptoms. The current study specifically focuses on the abnormal activity of the rostral anterior cingulate, using a paradigm which elicits an unexpected processing conflict caused by salient emotional stimuli.


Twelve survivors (seven men and five women) of the Taegu subway fire in 2003, who later developed PTSD, agreed to participate in this study. Twelve healthy volunteers (seven men and five women) were recruited for comparison. Functional brain images of all participants were acquired using functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a same-different judgment task, which was modified to elicit an unexpected emotional processing conflict.


PTSD patients, compared to comparison subjects, showed a decreased rostral anterior cingulate functioning when exposed to situations which induce an unexpected emotional processing conflict. Moreover, PTSD symptom severity was negatively correlated to the level of decrease in the rostral anterior cingulate activity.


The results of this study provide evidence that the rostral anterior cingulate functioning is impaired in PTSD patients during response-conflict situations that involve emotional stimuli.

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