BACKGROUND: Converging neuroimaging research suggests altered emotion neurocircuitry in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Emotion activation studies in these individuals have shown hyperactivation in emotion-related regions, including the amygdala and insula, and hypoactivation in emotion-regulation regions, including the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). However, few studies have examined patterns of connectivity at rest in individuals with PTSD, a potentially powerful method for illuminating brain network structure.
METHODS: Using the amygdala as a seed region, we measured resting-state brain connectivity using 3 T functional magnetic resonance imaging in returning male veterans with PTSD and combat controls without PTSD.
RESULTS: Fifteen veterans with PTSD and 14 combat controls enrolled in our study. Compared with controls, veterans with PTSD showed greater positive connectivity between the amygdala and insula, reduced positive connectivity between the amygdala and hippocampus, and reduced anticorrelation between the amygdala and dorsal ACC and rostral ACC.
LIMITATIONS: Only male veterans with combat exposure were tested, thus our findings cannot be generalized to women or to individuals with non-combat related PTSD.
CONCLUSION: These results demonstrate that studies of functional connectivity during resting state can discern aberrant patterns of coupling within emotion circuits and suggest a possible brain basis for emotion-processing and emotion-regulation deficits in individuals with PTSD.
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