Attention bias has been proposed to contribute to symptom maintenance in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), although the neural correlates of these processes have not been well defined. When engaging in tasks that require attention, individuals with PTSD have demonstrated altered activity in brain regions such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), and amygdala; however, few PTSD neuroimaging studies have employed tasks that both measure attentional strategies being engaged and included emotionally-salient information, which was the goal of the present study. We administered a modified attention bias task, the dot probe, which is equipped to measure direction and magnitude of bias, to a sample of 37 (19 trauma control, 18 PTSD+) traumatized African-American adults during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Compared to traumatized participants without PTSD, PTSD+ participants demonstrated increased activation in the dlPFC in response to trials including angry/threatening expressions. In addition, attentional avoidance of threat cues corresponded with increased vlPFC and dorsal ACC (dACC) activation in the PTSD group, a pattern that was not observed in controls. These data provide some evidence to suggest that relative increases in dlPFC, dACC and vlPFC activation to threat cues in the context of heightened attentional demands represent neural markers of attentional bias for threat in individuals with PTSD, reflecting selective disruptions in attentional control and emotion processing networks in this disorder.
Fani, Negar; Jovanovic, Tanja; Ely, Timothy D.; Bradley, Bekh; Gutman, David; Tone, Erin; and Ressler, Kerry J., "Neural Correlates of Attention Bias to Threat in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder" (2012). Psychology Faculty Publications. 124.