Sex Differences in Extinction Recall in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot FMRI Study

Posted: 28 Oct 2016

See all articles by Erel Shvil

Erel Shvil

Columbia University

Gregory Sullivan

Columbia University

Scott Schafer

University of Colorado at Boulder

John Markowitz

Columbia University

Tor Wager

University of Colorado at Boulder

Mohammed R. Milad

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

Yuval Neria

Columbia University

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Recent research has found that individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exhibit an impaired memory of fear extinction compounded by deficient functional activation of key nodes of the fear network including the amygdala, hippocampus, ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). Research has shown these regions are sexually dimorphic and activate differentially in healthy men and women during fear learning tasks. To explore biological markers of sex differences following exposure to psychological trauma, we used a fear learning and extinction paradigm together with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and skin conductance response (SCR) to assess 31 individuals with PTSD (18 women; 13 men) and 25 matched trauma-exposed healthy control subjects (13 women; 12 men). Whereas no sex differences appeared within the trauma-exposed healthy control group, both psychophysiological and neural activation patterns within the PTSD group indicated deficient recall of extinction memory among men and not among women. Men with PTSD exhibited increased activation in the left rostral dACC during extinction recall compared with women with PTSD. These findings highlight the importance of tracking sex differences in fear extinction when characterizing the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of PTSD psychopathology.

Suggested Citation

Shvil, Erel and Sullivan, Gregory and Schafer, Scott and Markowitz, John and Wager, Tor and Milad, Mohammed R. and Neria, Yuval, Sex Differences in Extinction Recall in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot FMRI Study (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2858582

Erel Shvil

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Gregory Sullivan

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Scott Schafer

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

John Markowitz

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Tor Wager (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

Boulder, CO

Mohammed R. Milad

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Yuval Neria

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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