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Neural Responses to Masked Fear Faces: Sex Differences and Trauma Exposure in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


Felmingham, KL and Kemp, AH and Peduto, A and Williams, LM and Liddell, B and Falconer, E and Bryant, R, Neural Responses to Masked Fear Faces: Sex Differences and Trauma Exposure in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119, (1) pp. 241-247. ISSN 0021-843X (2010) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright © 2010 American Psychological Association

DOI: doi:10.1037/a0017551


Although women have a greater propensity than men to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following trauma, sex differences in neural activations to threat have received little investigation. This study tested the prediction that trauma would heighten activity in automatic fear-processing networks to a greater extent in women than in men. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were recorded in 23 participants with PTSD (13 women, 10 men), 21 trauma-exposed controls (9 women, 12 men), and 42 non-trauma-exposed controls (22 women, 20 men) while they viewed masked facial expressions of fear. Exposure to trauma was associated with enhanced brainstem activity to fear in women, regardless of the presence of PTSD, but in men, it was associated only with the development of PTSD. Men with PTSD displayed greater hippocampal activity to fear than did women. Both men and women with PTSD showed enhanced amygdala activity to fear relative to controls. The authors conclude that greater brainstem activation to threat stimuli may contribute to the greater prevalence of PTSD in women, and greater hippocampal activation in men may subserve an enhanced capacity for contextualizing fear-related stimuli.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:posttraumatic stress disorder, fMRI, sex differences, masked fear faces
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Clinical and health psychology
Research Field:Health psychology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical health
Objective Field:Clinical health not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Felmingham, KL (Professor Kim Felmingham)
ID Code:71920
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:121
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2011-08-15
Last Modified:2015-02-04
Downloads:11 View Download Statistics

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