An fMRI study of anterior cingulate function in posttraumatic stress disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2001 Dec 15;50(12):932-42. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(01)01215-x.


Background: Several recent neuroimaging studies have provided data consistent with functional abnormalities in anterior cingulate cortex in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In our study, we implemented a cognitive activation paradigm to test the functional integrity of anterior cingulate cortex in PTSD.

Methods: Eight Vietnam combat veterans with PTSD (PTSD Group) and eight Vietnam combat veterans without PTSD (non-PTSD Group) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing the Emotional Counting Stroop. In separate conditions, subjects counted the number of combat-related (Combat), generally negative (General Negative), and neutral (Neutral) words presented on a screen and pressed a button indicating their response.

Results: In the Combat versus General Negative comparison, the non-PTSD group exhibited significant fMRI blood oxygenation level-dependent signal increases in rostral anterior cingulate cortex, but the PTSD group did not.

Conclusions: These findings suggest a diminished response in rostral anterior cingulate cortex in the presence of emotionally relevant stimuli in PTSD. We speculate that diminished recruitment of this region in PTSD may, in part, mediate symptoms such as distress and arousal upon exposure to reminders of trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Emotions*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / metabolism
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Vietnam