History of childhood maltreatment augments dorsolateral prefrontal processing of emotional valence in PTSD

J Psychiatr Res. 2016 Mar;74:45-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.12.015. Epub 2015 Dec 19.

Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by conflicting findings of both increased and decreased amygdala and prefrontal reactivity to threat or trauma stimuli. Childhood maltreatment (CM), a potent risk factor for PTSD, exerts long-lasting influences on threat processing and prefrontal-amygdala function. This suggests that CM history may influence PTSD neural phenotypes related to threat processing. Here, we adapt a well-characterized emotional conflict paradigm to investigate CM effects on both emotional conflict and emotional valence processing within PTSD stratified by task relevance. Forty-two individuals with PTSD (22 reporting extensive CM history (PTSD-CM)) and 20 trauma-exposed healthy controls (TEHCs) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while identifying affect of emotional faces (fear and happy) overlaid with a goal-irrelevant emotional distractor word ("FEAR" or "HAPPY"). We examined effects of CM on conflict, conflict adaptation, valence-related activation (fear vs. happy) for goal-relevant (face) and goal-irrelevant stimuli (word), and valence effects in interaction with goal-relevancy (face vs. word). Though no activation differences between groups were observed for conflict contrasts nor for valence effects in the amygdala, CM status interacted with valence processing differences as a function of goal relevance in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). Here, PTSD-CM displayed greater activation relative to PTSD to negative valence when stimuli were goal-irrelevant. CM history also moderated relationships between activation abnormalities and PTSD re-experiencing symptoms. These findings provide initial evidence that CM history augments dorsolateral prefrontal bias to implicitly processed stimulus valence in PTSD.

Keywords: Childhood maltreatment; PTSD; Valence; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*