Affect and neural activity in women with PTSD during a task of emotional interference

Wilson J. Brown, Jessica A. Wojtalik, Daniel Dewey, Steven E. Bruce, Zhen Yang, Yvette I. Sheline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background The current study sought to determine the relationship between self-reported dimensions of affect and activation in brain regions associated with emotion regulation in PTSD during a task of non-conscious emotional processing in interpersonal trauma survivors with PTSD and healthy controls. Methods Participants included 52 women diagnosed with PTSD and 18 female healthy controls. All participants completed a clinical assessment including the SCID, CAPS, and PANAS followed by a functional MRI assessment including a task of implicit emotional conflict. Results When PTSD participants were oriented to fearful faces, negative affect (NA) was inversely related to activation in the left amygdala and positive affect (PA) was inversely related to activation in the right amygdala. When ignoring fearful faces, NA was positively associated with activation in the right parahippocampal gyrus and PA was inversely related to activation in the left hippocampus. Similar results were observed in healthy controls regarding PA. However, NA was not significantly related to any region of interest in healthy controls. Limitations Limitations include the homogeneity of the healthy controls with regard to racial diversity, results may only be specific to female interpersonal trauma survivors with PTSD, and neutral faces within the conflict task may be perceived as negative by clinical samples. Conclusions Persistent, increased NA may represent a proxy for disruptions in emotional processing in interpersonal trauma survivors with PTSD. As such, clinicians may prioritize increasing emotional awareness through emotion regulation and/or distress tolerance strategies in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this