Neural systems for executive and emotional processing are modulated by symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in Iraq War veterans.
The symptom-provocation paradigms generally used in neuroimaging studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have placed high demands on emotion processing but lacked cognitive processing, thereby limiting the ability to assess alterations in neural systems that subserve executive functions and their interactions with emotion processing. Thirty-nine veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while exposed to emotional combat-related and neutral civilian scenes interleaved with an executive processing task. Contrast activation maps were regressed against PTSD symptoms as measured by the Davidson Trauma Scale. Activation for emotional compared with neutral stimuli was highly positively correlated with level of PTSD symptoms in ventral frontolimbic regions, notably the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, and ventral anterior cingulate gyrus. Conversely, activation for the executive task was negatively correlated with PTSD symptoms in the dorsal executive network, notably the middle frontal gyrus, dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus, and inferior parietal lobule. Thus, there is a strong link between the subjectively assessed behavioral phenomenology of PTSD and objective neurobiological markers. These findings extend the largely symptom provocation-based functional neuroanatomy to provide evidence that interrelated executive and emotional processing systems of the brain are differentially affected by PTSD symptomatology in recently deployed war veterans.
Morey, RA; Petty, CM; Cooper, DA; Labar, KS; McCarthy, G
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