Posttraumatic brain activity predicts resilience to PTSD
Philadelphia | September 21, 2023
Imaging study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging provides hints to PTSD pathology
After a traumatic experience, most people recover without incident, but some people – between 2% and 10%– develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that can cause debilitating symptoms of anxiety due to emotional dysregulation. PTSD symptoms are present in up to 40% of trauma survivors in the acute aftermath of trauma, but full-blown PTSD develops in only a small subset of cases. Early identification of those at risk is critical for both early treatment and possible prevention.
A new study(opens in new tab/window) led by Israel Liberzon, MD, at Texas A&M University, aimed to do just that. The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging(opens in new tab/window), published by Elsevier.
Researchers have long understood that PTSD involves altered brain processing in areas associated with emotion processing and modulation, including the amygdala, insula, and prefrontal cortex. But, it has remained unclear when the PTSD-associated differences arise. In this work, the researchers collected brain scans from 104 survivors of trauma – usually a car accident – at 1, 6, and 14 months after the accident. By looking at brain activity so soon after the trauma, the researchers hoped to identify predictors of who would be more at risk or resilient to developing chronic PTSD.
Dr. Liberzon said of the findings, “In this largest-to-date, prospective study of early post-trauma survivors, greater activation in right inferior frontal gyrus, a region linked to cognitive control and emotional reappraisal, predicts better recovery from early PTSD symptoms. These findings highlight the key roles of cortical/cognitive regions in regulation of fear and in PTSD development.”
Importantly, the researchers saw changes in the patients’ brain activity change over time, reflecting an ongoing, perhaps pathological process.
Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, said of the study, “These findings highlight the key role that the prefrontal cortex may play in conferring resilience to the harmful effects of trauma, through its function representing contextual information and regulating emotional responses.”
Dr. Liberzon added, “Understanding brain circuits linked to the progression of PTSD from an acute to a chronic condition is critical for understanding its pathophysiology, and eventually for the development of mechanism-informed treatment. The results might also help clinicians to start identifying and treating early trauma survivors at greater risk of developing chronic PTSD a year after the traumatic event.”
Notes for editors
The article is "Greater Early Post-Trauma Activation in Right Inferior Frontal Gyrus Predicts Recovery from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms," by Jony Sheynin, Yana Lokshina, Samira Ahrari, Tetiana Nickelsen, Elizabeth R. Duval, Ziv Ben-Zion, Arieh Y. Shalev, Talma Hendler, and Israel Liberzon (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2023.07.002(opens in new tab/window)). It appears as an Article in Press in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging(opens in new tab/window), published by Elsevier.
Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Rhiannon Bugno at [email protected](opens in new tab/window). Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Israel Liberzon at [email protected](opens in new tab/window).
The authors’ affiliations and disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.
Cameron S. Carter, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and Director of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available here(opens in new tab/window).
About Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging(opens in new tab/window) is an official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry(opens in new tab/window), whose purpose is to promote excellence in scientific research and education in fields that investigate the nature, causes, mechanisms and treatments of disorders of thought, emotion, or behavior. In accord with this mission, this peer-reviewed, rapid-publication, international journal focuses on studies using the tools and constructs of cognitive neuroscience, including the full range of non-invasive neuroimaging and human extra- and intracranial physiological recording methodologies. It publishes both basic and clinical studies, including those that incorporate genetic data, pharmacological challenges, and computational modeling approaches. The 2022 Journal Impact FactorTM score, from Clarivate, for Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging is 5.9. www.sobp.org/bpcnni(opens in new tab/window)
As a global leader in information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making for customers across the global research and health ecosystems. In everything we publish, we uphold the highest standards of quality and integrity. We bring that same rigor to our information analytics solutions for researchers, academic leaders, funders, R&D-intensive corporations, doctors, and nurses.
Elsevier employs 9,000 people worldwide, including over 2,500 technologists. We have supported the work of our research and health partners for more than 140 years. Growing from our roots in publishing, we offer knowledge and valuable analytics that help our users make breakthroughs and drive societal progress. Digital solutions such as ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath support strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, medical education, and nursing education. Researchers and healthcare professionals rely on over 2,800 journals, including The Lancet(opens in new tab/window) and Cell(opens in new tab/window); 46,000+ eBook titles; and iconic reference works, such as Gray's Anatomy. With the Elsevier Foundation(opens in new tab/window) and our external Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, we work in partnership with diverse stakeholders to advance inclusion and diversity in science, research and healthcare in developing countries and around the world.
Elsevier is part of RELX(opens in new tab/window), a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.