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Neuroimage Clin. 2018 Jul 10;20:197-204. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2018.07.007. eCollection 2018.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic hyperconnectivity in emotional processing.

Author information

1
Department of Diagnostic Imaging, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada; Neurosciences & Mental Health Program, The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, Canada; Department of Medical Imaging, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. Electronic address: ben.dunkley@sickkids.ca.
2
Department of Diagnostic Imaging, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.
3
Directorate of Mental Health, Canadian Forces Health Services, Ottawa, Canada.
4
Department of Diagnostic Imaging, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada; Neurosciences & Mental Health Program, The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, Canada; Department of Medical Imaging, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Abstract

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with heightened responses to threatening stimuli, particularly aggression-related emotional facial expressions. The stability over time of this neurophysiological 'hyperactive' threat response has not been determined. We studied implicit emotional face processing in soldiers with and without PTSD at two time-points (roughly 2 years apart) using magnetoencephalography to determine the response of oscillations and synchrony to happy and angry faces, and the reliability of this marker for PTSD over time. At the initial time-point we had 20 soldiers with and 25 without PTSD; 35 returned for follow-up testing 2 years later, and included 13 with and 22 without PTSD. A mixed-effects analysis was used. There were no significant differences (albeit a slight reduction) in the severity of PTSD between the two time-points. MEG contrasts of the neurophysiological networks involved in the processing of angry vs. happy faces showed that the PTSD group had elevated oscillatory connectivity for angry faces. Maladaptive hypersynchrony in PTSD for threatening faces was seen in subcortical regions, including the thalamus, as well as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, cingulum gyri, inferior temporal and parietal regions. These results are generally consistent with prior studies and our own, and we demonstrate that this hyperconnectivity was stable over a two year period, in line with essentially stable symptomatology. Together, these results are consistent with the theory that hypervigilance in PTSD is driven by bottom-up, rapid processing of threat-related stimuli that engage a widespread network working in synchrony.

KEYWORDS:

Amygdala; Functional connectivity; Implicit emotional face processing; Magnetoencephalography (MEG); Military combat soldiers; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Prefrontal cortex

PMID:
30094169
PMCID:
PMC6073075
DOI:
10.1016/j.nicl.2018.07.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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