Objective: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with decreased top-down emotion modulation from medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) regions, a pathophysiology accompanied by hyperarousal and hyperactivation of the amygdala. By contrast, PTSD patients with the dissociative subtype (PTSD + DS) often exhibit increased mPFC top-down modulation and decreased amygdala activation associated with emotional detachment and hypoarousal. Crucially, PTSD and PTSD + DS display distinct functional connectivity within the PFC, amygdala complexes, and the periaqueductal gray (PAG), a region related to defensive responses/emotional coping. However, differences in directed connectivity between these regions have not been established in PTSD, PTSD + DS, or controls.
Methods: To examine directed (effective) connectivity among these nodes, as well as group differences, we conducted resting-state stochastic dynamic causal modeling (sDCM) pairwise analyses of coupling between the ventromedial (vm)PFC, the bilateral basolateral and centromedial (CMA) amygdala complexes, and the PAG, in 155 participants (PTSD [n = 62]; PTSD + DS [n = 41]; age-matched healthy trauma-unexposed controls [n = 52]).
Results: PTSD was characterized by a pattern of predominant bottom-up connectivity from the amygdala to the vmPFC and from the PAG to the vmPFC and amygdala. Conversely, PTSD + DS exhibited predominant top-down connectivity between all node pairs (from the vmPFC to the amygdala and PAG, and from the amygdala to the PAG). Interestingly, the PTSD + DS group displayed the strongest intrinsic inhibitory connections within the vmPFC.
Conclusions: These results suggest the contrasting symptom profiles of PTSD and its dissociative subtype (hyper- vs. hypo-emotionality, respectively) may be driven by complementary changes in directed connectivity corresponding to bottom-up defensive fear processing versus enhanced top-down regulation. Hum Brain Mapp 38:5551-5561, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: amygdala; connectivity; dynamic causal modeling; fMRI; periaqueductal gray; posttraumatic stress disorder; prefrontal cortex.
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.