Hippocampal network connectivity and activation differentiates post-traumatic stress disorder from generalized anxiety disorder

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Sep;38(10):1889-98. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.122. Epub 2013 May 15.


Anxiety disorders are a diverse group of clinical states. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), eg, share elevated anxiety symptoms, but differ with respect to fear-related memory dysregulation. As the hippocampus is implicated in both general anxiety and fear memory, it may be an important brain locus for mapping the similarities and differences among anxiety disorders. Anxiety and fear also functionally associate with different subdivisions of the hippocampus along its longitudinal axis: the human posterior (rodent dorsal) hippocampus is involved in memory, through connectivity with the medial prefrontal-medial parietal default-mode network, whereas the anterior (rodent ventral) hippocampus is involved in anxiety, through connectivity with limbic-prefrontal circuits. We examined whether differential hippocampal network functioning may help account for similarities and differences in symptoms in PTSD and GAD. Network-sensitive functional magnetic resonance imaging-based resting-state intrinsic connectivity methods, along with task-based assessment of posterior hippocampal/default-mode network function, were used. As predicted, in healthy subjects resting-state connectivity dissociated between posterior hippocampal connectivity with the default-mode network, and anterior hippocampal connectivity to limbic-prefrontal circuitry. The posterior hippocampus and the associated default-mode network, across both resting-state connectivity and task-based measures, were perturbed in PTSD relative to each of the other groups. By contrast, we found only modest support for similarly blunted anterior hippocampal connectivity across both patient groups. These findings provide new insights into the neural circuit-level dysfunctions that account for similar vs different features of two major anxiety disorders, through a translational framework built on animal work and carefully selected clinical disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*