Neural correlates of irritability symptom relief in adolescents pre- and post-trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy: A pilot study on reward processing

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Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging


Despite that Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a first-line, evidence-based treatment for youths experiencing trauma-related symptoms, treatment responses vary and it remains unclear for whom and how this treatment works. In this context, we examined pre-treatment neural reward processing and pre- vs. post-treatment changes in neural reward processing, in relation to irritability - a transdiagnostic and dimensional feature present in multiple trauma-related syndromes, following TF-CBT. Adolescents (N = 22) with childhood trauma history completed a child-friendly monetary incentive delay task during fMRI acquisition, prior to and after the treatment, and irritability symptoms were assessed at five time points over the course of the treatment. Individual irritability slopes (i.e., irritability change rate) and intercepts (i.e., initial irritability level), generated by linear growth curve modeling, were integrated with fMRI data. Repeated ANCOVAs demonstrated that both pre-treatment neural response to reward and pre- vs. post-treatment changes in neural reward processing correlated with irritability symptom relief, such that opposite baseline neural reward processing profiles and differential changing patterns were observed in individuals showing irritability symptom relief vs. not. Together, our findings provide proof of concept that integrating brain information with clinical information has the potential to identify predictors and mechanisms of symptom relief.

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