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Psychiatry Res. 2005 Oct 30;140(1):45-53. Epub 2005 Oct 5.

Quantifiable change in functional brain response to empathic and forgivability judgments with resolution of posttraumatic stress disorder.

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Sheffield Cognition and Neuroimaging Laboratory (SCANLab), Department of Academic Clinical Psychiatry, University of Sheffield, The Longley Centre, Northern General Hospital, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield, S5 7JT, UK.


Previous functional neuroimaging studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have mainly focused on symptom-provocation paradigms in combat-related PTSD. We sought to elucidate the effect of non-combat-related PTSD on the physiology of social cognition. Thirteen patients with PTSD underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they engaged in tasks that (i) involve speculation on another's intention, (ii) invoke empathy and (iii) involve making judgments of the forgivability of others' actions; each versus 'baseline' social reasoning judgments. A post-therapy fMRI scan followed a course of modified cognitive behavioural therapy. Post-therapy, we found increased activation in brain regions predicted on the basis of foregoing work in healthy subjects. These included significant left middle temporal gyrus activation in post-therapy response to empathy judgments and posterior cingulate gyrus activation in post-therapy response to forgivability judgments. The specific regions of the human brain activated by empathy and forgivability judgments changed with symptom resolution in PTSD. Time and therapy are likely contributory factors that lead to a degree of 'normalisation' of the neural response to these social cognition tasks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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