Hippocampal Threat Reactivity Interacts with Physiological Arousal to Predict PTSD Symptoms

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The Journal of neuroscience


Hippocampal impairments are reliably associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, little research has characterized how increased threat-sensitivity may interact with arousal responses to alter hippocampal reactivity, and further how these interactions relate to the sequelae of trauma-related symptoms. In a sample of individuals recently exposed to trauma (N=116, 76 Female), we found that PTSD symptoms at 2-weeks were associated with decreased hippocampal responses to threat as assessed with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Further, the relationship between hippocampal threat sensitivity and PTSD symptomology only emerged in individuals who showed transient, high threat-related arousal, as assayed by an independently collected measure of Fear Potentiated Startle. Collectively, our finding suggests that development of PTSD is associated with threat-related decreases in hippocampal function, due to increases in fear-potentiated arousal.

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ePub ahead of print