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Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul. 2014 Nov 25;1:17. doi: 10.1186/2051-6673-1-17. eCollection 2014.

Altered connectivity within the salience network during direct eye gaze in PTSD.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Western University, 339 Windermere Rd, PO Box 5339, London, ON N6A 5A5 Canada ; Department of Psychosomatic and Psychotherapeutic Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg, Germany.
2
Department of Psychiatry, Western University, 339 Windermere Rd, PO Box 5339, London, ON N6A 5A5 Canada ; Psychology, Western University, London, ON N6A 5A5 Canada.
3
Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany.
4
Department of Psychiatry, Western University, 339 Windermere Rd, PO Box 5339, London, ON N6A 5A5 Canada.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) disorder has been associated with heightened threat sensitivity. Evidence suggests that direct eye gaze leads to sustained activation of the superior colliculus/periaqueductal grey within individuals with PTSD. The present analysis investigated functional connectivity within the salience network (SN) in the same sample as presented in a prior publication during direct versus averted gaze in adults with PTSD related to childhood maltreatment as compared to healthy individuals.

METHODS:

Functional connectivity within the SN was examined using functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants viewed avatars positioned in direct versus averted gaze relative to the participant in 16 individuals with PTSD related to childhood maltreatment and 16 healthy control subjects. Connectivity within the SN was assessed via Independent Component Analysis (ICA). Associations with symptom severity were explored with multiple regression analyses on individual subject components.

RESULTS:

Temporal multiple regression analyses revealed higher connectivity within the SN during direct versus averted gaze which was more pronounced in individuals with PTSD as compared to healthy controls. Compared to controls, individuals with PTSD showed increased integration of the left amygdala and the right insula within the SN. PTSD symptom severity was positively associated with connectivity of the right mid-cingulate cortex within the SN in PTSD subjects only.

CONCLUSIONS:

Participants with PTSD showed enhanced coupling of the amygdala and the insula within the SN as compared to healthy control subjects during gaze processing. Our results provide evidence for an increased sensitivity of the salience network to direct versus averted gaze in individuals with PTSD related to childhood maltreatment.

KEYWORDS:

Amygdala; Childhood abuse; Direct gaze; ICA; Insula; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Salience network; Traumatic stress; fMRI functional connectivity analysis

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