Brain activation to facial expressions in youth with PTSD symptoms

Amy S. Garrett, Victor Carrion, Hilit Kletter, Asya Karchemskiy, Carl F. Weems, Allan Reiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective This study examined activation to facial expressions in youth with a history of interpersonal trauma and current posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) compared to healthy controls (HC). Design and analysis Twenty-three medication-naive youth with PTSS and 23 age- and gender-matched HC underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while viewing fearful, angry, sad, happy, and neutral faces. Data were analyzed for group differences in location of activation, as well as timing of activation during the early versus late phase of the block. Using SPM5, significant activation (P <.05 FWE [Family-Wise Error] corrected, extent = 10 voxels) associated with the main effect of group was identified. Activation from selected clusters was extracted to SPSS software for further analysis of specific facial expressions and temporal patterns of activation. Results The PTSS group showed significantly greater activation than controls in several regions, including the amygdala/hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex, insula, and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, and less activation than controls in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). These group differences in activation were greatest during angry, happy, and neutral faces, and predominantly during the early phase of the block. Post hoc analyses showed significant Group × Phase interactions in the right amygdala and left hippocampus. Conclusions Traumatic stress may impact development of brain regions important for emotion processing. Timing of activation may be altered in youth with PTSS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-459
Number of pages11
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • PTSD
  • emotion
  • fMRI
  • faces
  • pediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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