Neural and Genetic Markers of Vulnerability to Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among Survivors of the World Trade Center Attacks

Posted: 28 Oct 2016

See all articles by Andreas Olsson

Andreas Olsson

Karolinska Institutet

Ethan Kross

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Samuel Nordberg

Pennsylvania State University

Anna Weinberg

McGill University

Jochen Weber

Independent

Sonja Schmer-Galunder

Columbia University

John Fossella

Cornell University

Tor Wager

University of Colorado at Boulder

George A. Bonanno

Columbia University

Kevin N. Ochsner

Columbia University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: October 24, 2016

Abstract

Although recent research has begun to describe the neural and genetic processes underlying variability in responses to trauma, less is known about how these processes interact. We addressed this issue by using functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the relationship between posttraumatic stress symptomatology (PTSS), a common genetic polymorphism of the serotonin transporter [5-HTT (5-hydroxy tryptamine)] gene and neural activity in response to viewing images associated with the 9/11 terrorist attack among a rare sample of high-exposure 9/11 survivors (n= 17). Participants varied in whether they carried a copy of the short allele in the promoter region of the 5-HTT gene. During scanning, participants viewed images of the 9/11 attack, non-9/11 negative and neutral images. Three key findings are reported. First, carriers of the short allele displayed higher levels of PTSS. Second, both PTSS and the presence of the short allele correlated negatively with activity in a network of cortical midline regions (e.g. the retrosplenal and more posterior cingulate cortices (PCCs)) implicated in episodic memories and self-reflection when viewing 9/11 vs non-9/11 negative control images. Finally, exploratory analyses indicated that PCC activity mediated the relationship between genotype and PTSS. These results highlight the role of PCC in distress following trauma.

Suggested Citation

Olsson, Andreas and Kross, Ethan and Nordberg, Samuel and Weinberg, Anna and Weber, Jochen and Schmer-Galunder, Sonja and Fossella, John and Wager, Tor and Bonanno, George A. and Ochsner, Kevin N., Neural and Genetic Markers of Vulnerability to Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among Survivors of the World Trade Center Attacks (October 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2858478

Andreas Olsson

Karolinska Institutet ( email )

Granits väg 4
Solna, Stockholm 17171
Sweden

Ethan Kross

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Samuel Nordberg

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Anna Weinberg

McGill University ( email )

1001 Sherbrooke St. W
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1G5
Canada

Jochen Weber

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Sonja Schmer-Galunder

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

John Fossella

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Tor Wager (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

Boulder, CO

George A. Bonanno

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Kevin N. Ochsner

Columbia University - Department of Psychology ( email )

406 Schermerhorn Hall
1190 Amsterdam Avenue, Mail Code 5501
New York, NY 10027
United States

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