Dysregulation in cortical reactivity to emotional faces in PTSD patients with high dissociation symptoms
Klimova, A and Bryant, RA and Williams, LM and Felmingham, KL, Dysregulation in cortical reactivity to emotional faces in PTSD patients with high dissociation symptoms, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 4 Article 20430. ISSN 2000-8066 (2013) [Refereed Article]
Background: Predominant dissociation in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by restricted affective responses to positive stimuli. To date, no studies have examined neural responses to a range of emotional expressions in PTSD with high dissociative symptoms.
Objective: This study tested the hypothesis that PTSD patients with high dissociative symptoms will display increased event-related potential (ERP) amplitudes in early components (N1, P1) to threatening faces (angry, fearful), and reduced later ERP amplitudes (Vertex Positive Potential (VPP), P3) to happy faces compared to PTSD patients with low dissociative symptoms.
Methods: Thirty-nine civilians with PTSD were classified as high dissociative (n=16) or low dissociative (n=23) according to their responses on the Clinician Administered Dissociative States Scale. ERPs were recorded, whilst participants viewed emotional (happy, angry, fear) and neutral facial expressions in a passive viewing task.
Results: High dissociative PTSD patients displayed significantly increased N120 amplitude to the majority of facial expressions (neutral, happy, and angry) compared to low dissociative PTSD patients under conscious and preconscious conditions. The high dissociative PTSD group had significantly reduced VPP amplitude to happy faces in the conscious condition.
Conclusion: High dissociative PTSD patients displayed increased early (preconscious) cortical responses to emotional stimuli, and specific reductions to happy facial expressions in later (conscious), face-specific components compared to low dissociative PTSD patients. Dissociation in PTSD may act to increase initial pre-attentive processing of affective stimuli, and specifically reduce cortical reactivity to happy faces when consciously processing these stimuli.