Neural correlates of anger expression in patients with PTSD

Neuropsychopharmacology 2021; 6: 1635–1642.
Authored By:
Eshel, N., Maron-Katz, A., Wu, W. Duna Abu-Amara, Charles R. Marmar & Amit Etkin
Anger is a common and debilitating symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although studies have identified brain circuits underlying anger experience and expression in healthy individuals, how these circuits interact with trauma remains unclear. Here, we performed the first study examining the neural correlates of anger in patients with PTSD. Using a data-driven approach with resting-state fMRI, we identified two prefrontal regions whose overall functional connectivity was inversely associated with anger: the left anterior middle frontal gyrus (aMFG) and the right orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). We then used concurrent TMS-EEG to target the left aMFG parcel previously identified through fMRI, measuring its cortical excitability and causal connectivity to downstream areas. We found that low-anger PTSD patients exhibited enhanced excitability in the left aMFG and enhanced causal connectivity between this region and visual areas. Together, our results suggest that left aMFG activity may confer protection against the development of anger, and therefore may be an intriguing target for circuit-based interventions for anger in PTSD.
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