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Amygdala deactivation and abnormal amygdala prefrontal coupling during second order conditioning with trauma relevant cues in posttraumatic stress disorder

H. Flor, S. Diener, M. Wessa, G. Wirtz, U. Frommberger, T. Penga, M. Ruttorf, M. Ruf and C. Schmahl

Psychophysiology, 48, S1, p.S51

Pavlovian fear conditioning is regarded as crucial in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The assumed development of a fear network during the traumatic event is thought to increase with time by processes such as higher order conditioning. In this study the brain correlates of higher order fear conditioning were investigated in traumatized persons with and without PTSD and non-traumatized healthy controls by using a trauma reminder as unconditioned stimulus. Fourteen subjects with PTSD, fourteen traumatized persons without PTSDand thirteen healthy nontraumatized controls underwent a higher order conditioning paradigm with two graphic symbols as conditioned and two pictures reminding of the individual trauma as unconditioned stimuli. During habituation, acquisition and extinction neural activity was recorded via functional magnetic resonance imaging. Ratings of emotional valence, arousal and contingencywere obtained after each scanning phase. All groups learned the CS1/US contingency, but PTSD-patients failed to extinguish. Only PTSD-patients displayed higher arousal ratings for CS1as compared with CS- during acquisition. During CS1presentation PTSD-patients showed amygdala deactivation, which correlated inversely with activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, while both control groups displayed negative interactions between amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex. Amygdala deactivation during early acquisitionmay representmaladaptive anticipatory coping behavior in PTSD-patients. Supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 636/C1 and SFB 636/Z3).

Contact: Prof. Dr. Frank Zöllner last modified: 20.03.2019
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