Neuroimaging studies of emotional responses in PTSD

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Jul:1071:87-109. doi: 10.1196/annals.1364.009.


Neuroimaging research offers a powerful and noninvasive means to understand healthy as well as dysregulated emotional processing in healthy subjects and PTSD patients. Functional neuroimaging findings suggest specific roles for subregions of the medial prefrontal (mPFC), orbito frontal (OFC), anterior cingulate (ACC), and insular cortices as well as the sublenticular extended amygdala (SLEA) and hippocampus in various components of emotional processing. Some of the same regions appear to be associated with emotional response to trauma, and with symptom formation in PTSD. Neuroimaging findings of emotional processing in healthy subjects and PTSD patients are discussed, addressing the specific roles of cortical regions like mPFC, ACC, and insula, and their potential contribution to PTSD pathophysiology. Processes of cognitive-emotional interactions and social emotions are discussed in an attempt to synthesize the prefrontal findings in healthy subjects and PTSD patients. Further links between functional neuroanatomy of emotional responses and neuroendocrine stress regulation are proposed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / pathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*