Neural responses during emotional processing before and after cognitive trauma therapy for battered women

Psychiatry Res. 2013 Oct 30;214(1):48-55. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.05.001. Epub 2013 Aug 2.


Therapy for combat and accident-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reported to influence amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) response during emotional processing. It is not yet understood how therapy influences different phases of emotional processing, and whether previous findings generalize to other PTSD populations. We hypothesized that cognitive trauma therapy for battered women (CTT-BW) would alter insula, amygdala, and cingulate responses during anticipation and presentation of emotional images. Fourteen female patients with PTSD related to domestic violence completed the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after CTT-BW. The fMRI task involved cued anticipation followed by presentation of positive versus negative affective images. CTT-BW was associated with decreases in CAPS score, enhanced ACC and decreased anterior insula activation during anticipation, and decreased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and amygdala response during image presentation (negative-positive). Pre-treatment ACC activation during anticipation and image presentation exhibited positive and negative relationships to treatment response, respectively. Results suggest that CTT-BW enhanced efficiency of neural responses during preparation for upcoming emotional events in a way that reduced the need to recruit prefrontal-amygdala responses during the occurrence of the event. Results also suggest that enhancing ACC function during anticipation may be beneficial for PTSD treatment.

Keywords: Amygdala; Anticipation; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Insula; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Prefrontal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Domestic Violence / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome