Depress Anxiety. 2016 Jul;33(7):592-605. doi: 10.1002/da.22478. Epub 2016 Feb 25.


Background: About 10% of trauma-exposed individuals develop PTSD. Although a growing number of studies have investigated resting-state abnormalities in PTSD, inconsistent results suggest a need for a meta-analysis and a systematic review.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search in four online databases using keywords for PTSD, functional neuroimaging, and resting-state. In total, 23 studies matched our eligibility criteria. For the meta-analysis, we included 14 whole-brain resting-state studies, reporting data on 663 participants (298 PTSD patients and 365 controls). We used the activation likelihood estimation approach to identify concurrence of whole-brain hypo- and hyperactivations in PTSD patients during rest. Seed-based studies could not be included in the quantitative meta-analysis. Therefore, a separate qualitative systematic review was conducted on nine seed-based functional connectivity studies.

Results: The meta-analysis showed consistent hyperactivity in the ventral anterior cingulate cortex and the parahippocampus/amygdala, but hypoactivity in the (posterior) insula, cerebellar pyramis and middle frontal gyrus in PTSD patients, compared to healthy controls. Partly concordant with these findings, the systematic review on seed-based functional connectivity studies showed enhanced salience network (SN) connectivity, but decreased default mode network (DMN) connectivity in PTSD.

Conclusions: Combined, these altered resting-state connectivity and activity patterns could represent neurobiological correlates of increased salience processing and hypervigilance (SN), at the cost of awareness of internal thoughts and autobiographical memory (DMN) in PTSD. However, several discrepancies between findings of the meta-analysis and systematic review were observed, stressing the need for future studies on resting-state abnormalities in PTSD patients.

Keywords: PTSD; functional connectivity; meta-analysis; resting state; review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Rest
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*