The nature of traumatic memories: a 4-T FMRI functional connectivity analysis

Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Jan;161(1):36-44. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.161.1.36.


Objective: This study used functional connectivity analyses to assess interregional brain activity correlations during the recall of traumatic memories in traumatized subjects with and without posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method: Both 4-T functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and functional connectivity analyses were used to assess interregional brain activity correlations during script-driven symptom provocation in traumatized subjects with (N=11) and without (N=13) PTSD. Functional connectivity analyses were carried out by using data for brain regions activated in both the PTSD group and the comparison group. The use of functional connectivity analyses in addition to subtraction analyses allowed assessment of specific brain regions involved in the recall of traumatic events and of the neuronal networks underlying the recall of such events.

Results: Significant between-group differences in functional connectivity were found. Comparison of connectivity maps at coordinates x=2, y=20, z=36 (right anterior cingulate gyrus) for the two groups showed that the subjects without PTSD had greater correlation than the PTSD subjects in the left superior frontal gyrus (Brodmann's area 9), left anterior cingulate gyrus (Brodmann's area 32), left striatum (caudate), left parietal lobe (Brodmann's areas 40 and 43), and left insula (Brodmann's area 13). In contrast, the PTSD subjects showed greater correlation than the subjects without PTSD in the right posterior cingulate gyrus (Brodmann's area 29), right caudate, right parietal lobe (Brodmann's areas 7 and 40), and right occipital lobe (Brodmann's area 19).

Conclusions: The differences in brain connectivity between PTSD and comparison subjects may account for the nonverbal nature of traumatic memory recall in PTSD subjects, compared to a more verbal pattern of traumatic memory recall in comparison subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Imagination*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Subtraction Technique