Neural substrates for processing task-irrelevant emotional distracters in maltreated adolescents with depressive disorders: A pilot study

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.
Journal of Traumatic Stress (Impact Factor: 2.72). 04/2012; 25(2):198-202. DOI: 10.1002/jts.21682
Source: PubMed


In this pilot study, neural systems related to cognitive and emotional processing were examined using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging in 5 maltreated youth with depressive disorders and 11 nonmaltreated healthy participants. Subjects underwent an emotional oddball task, where they detected infrequent ovals (targets) within a continual stream of phase-scrambled images (standards). Sad and neutral images were intermittently presented as task-irrelevant distracters. The maltreated youth revealed significantly decreased activation in the left middle frontal gyrus and right precentral gyrus to target stimuli and significantly increased activation to sad stimuli in bilateral amygdala, left subgenual cingulate, left inferior frontal gyrus, and right middle temporal cortex compared to nonmaltreated subjects. Additionally, the maltreated youth showed significantly decreased activation to both attentional targets and sad distracters in the left posterior middle frontal gyrus compared to nonmaltreated subjects. In this exploratory study of dorsal control and ventral emotional circuits, we found that maltreated youth with distress disorders demonstrated dysfunction of neural systems related to cognitive control and emotional processing.

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    • "These studies show that adults with PTSD secondary to child maltreatment demonstrated hypoactivation of the prefrontal cortical regions and associated regulatory executive and attentional functions, and hyperactivation of the affective emotional circuits (that include amygdala and hippocampus) in response to aversive stimuli (Bremner et al., 1999, 2005; Shin et al., 1999). Limited neuroimaging studies on maltreated youth also suggest dysregulation in executive attentional and inhibitory circuits and hyperactivation of the affective emotional circuits involving the hippocampus and amygdala (Carrion, Garrett, Menon, Weems, & Reiss, 2008; De Bellis & Hooper, 2012; Maheu et al., 2010; Mueller et al., 2010; Tottenham et al., 2011). Thus, maltreatment as seen through a static developmental traumatology PTSD mechanism can theoretically lead to specific impairments in prefrontal executive functions and memory in accord with this psychobiological model of PTSD. "
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