Research Highlights

Cognitive and Affective Processing in PTSD

Activation maps and z-scores

Veterans who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan underwent functional MR imaging while concurrently exposed to a symptom provocation task, involving alterations between emotional combat-related and neutral civilian scenes, interleaved with an executive processing task. Activation for emotional compared to neutral stimuli was highly 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. Our work suggests 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 of PTSD to provide evidence that interrelated executive and emotional processing systems of the brain are differentially affected by PTSD symptomatology in recently deployed war veterans.