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Establishing neurobiological markers of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is essential to aid in diagnosis and treatment development. Fear processing deficits are central to PTSD, and their neural signatures may be used as such markers.
Here, we conducted a meta-analysis of seven Pavlovian fear conditioning fMRI studies comparing 156 patients with PTSD and 148 trauma-exposed healthy controls (TEHC) using seed-based d-mapping, to contrast neural correlates of experimental phases, namely conditioning, extinction learning, and extinction recall.
Patients with PTSD, as compared to TEHCs, exhibited increased activation in the anterior hippocampus (extending to the amygdala) and medial prefrontal cortex during conditioning; in the anterior hippocampus-amygdala regions during extinction learning; and in the anterior hippocampus-amygdala and medial prefrontal areas during extinction recall. Yet, patients with PTSD have shown an overall decreased activation in the thalamus during all phases in this meta-analysis.
Findings from this metanalysis suggest that PTSD is characterized by increased activation in areas related to salience and threat, and lower activation in the thalamus, a key relay hub between subcortical areas. If replicated, these fear network alterations may serve as objective diagnostic markers for PTSD, and potential targets for novel treatment development, including pharmacological and brain stimulation interventions. Future longitudinal studies are needed to examine whether these observed network alteration in PTSD are the cause or the consequence of PTSD.
A multitude of risk/protective factors for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders have been proposed. We conducted an umbrella review to summarize the evidence of the associations between risk/protective factors and each of the following disorders: specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and to assess the strength of this evidence whilst controlling for several biases.
Publication databases were searched for systematic reviews and meta-analyses examining associations between potential risk/protective factors and each of the disorders investigated. The evidence of the association between each factor and disorder was graded into convincing, highly suggestive, suggestive, weak, or non-significant according to a standardized classification based on: number of cases (>1000), random-effects p-values, 95% prediction intervals, confidence interval of the largest study, heterogeneity between studies, study effects, and excess of significance.
Nineteen systematic reviews and meta-analyses were included, corresponding to 216 individual studies covering 427 potential risk/protective factors. Only one factor association (early physical trauma as a risk factor for social anxiety disorder, OR 2.59, 95% CI 2.17–3.1) met all the criteria for convincing evidence. When excluding the requirement for more than 1000 cases, five factor associations met the other criteria for convincing evidence and 22 met the remaining criteria for highly suggestive evidence.
Although the amount and quality of the evidence for most risk/protective factors for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders is limited, a number of factors significantly increase the risk for these disorders, may have potential prognostic ability and inform prevention.
Preliminary evidence suggests that hoarding disorder (HD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may show distinct patterns of brain activation during executive performance, although results have been inconclusive regarding the specific neural correlates of their differential executive dysfunction. In the current study, we aim to evaluate differences in brain activation between patients with HD, OCD and healthy controls (HCs) during response inhibition, response switching and error processing.
We assessed 17 patients with HD, 18 patients with OCD and 19 HCs. Executive processing was assessed inside a magnetic resonance scanner by means of two variants of a cognitive control protocol (i.e. stop- and switch-signal tasks), which allowed for the assessment of the aforementioned executive domains.
OCD patients performed similar to the HCs, differing only in the number of successful go trials in the switch-signal task. However, they showed an anomalous hyperactivation of the right rostral anterior cingulate cortex during error processing in the switch-signal task. Conversely, HD patients performed worse than OCD and HC participants in both tasks, showing an impulsive-like pattern of response (i.e. shorter reaction time and more commission errors). They also exhibited hyperactivation of the right lateral orbitofrontal cortex during successful response switching and abnormal deactivation of frontal regions during error processing in both tasks.
Our results support that patients with HD and OCD present dissimilar cognitive profiles, supported by distinct neural mechanisms. Specifically, while alterations in HD resemble an impulsive pattern of response, patients with OCD present increased error processing during response conflict protocols.