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Publications [#318729] of Kevin S. LaBar

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Journal Articles

  1. Morey, RA; Dunsmoor, JE; Haswell, CC; Brown, VM; Vora, A; Weiner, J; Stjepanovic, D; Wagner, HR; VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, ; LaBar, KS (2015). Fear learning circuitry is biased toward generalization of fear associations in posttraumatic stress disorder.. Translational Psychiatry, 5, e700. [doi]
    (last updated on 2019/05/19)

    Abstract:
    Fear conditioning is an established model for investigating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, symptom triggers may vaguely resemble the initial traumatic event, differing on a variety of sensory and affective dimensions. We extended the fear-conditioning model to assess generalization of conditioned fear on fear processing neurocircuitry in PTSD. Military veterans (n=67) consisting of PTSD (n=32) and trauma-exposed comparison (n=35) groups underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during fear conditioning to a low fear-expressing face while a neutral face was explicitly unreinforced. Stimuli that varied along a neutral-to-fearful continuum were presented before conditioning to assess baseline responses, and after conditioning to assess experience-dependent changes in neural activity. Compared with trauma-exposed controls, PTSD patients exhibited greater post-study memory distortion of the fear-conditioned stimulus toward the stimulus expressing the highest fear intensity. PTSD patients exhibited biased neural activation toward high-intensity stimuli in fusiform gyrus (P<0.02), insula (P<0.001), primary visual cortex (P<0.05), locus coeruleus (P<0.04), thalamus (P<0.01), and at the trend level in inferior frontal gyrus (P=0.07). All regions except fusiform were moderated by childhood trauma. Amygdala-calcarine (P=0.01) and amygdala-thalamus (P=0.06) functional connectivity selectively increased in PTSD patients for high-intensity stimuli after conditioning. In contrast, amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal cortex (P=0.04) connectivity selectively increased in trauma-exposed controls compared with PTSD patients for low-intensity stimuli after conditioning, representing safety learning. In summary, fear generalization in PTSD is biased toward stimuli with higher emotional intensity than the original conditioned-fear stimulus. Functional brain differences provide a putative neurobiological model for fear generalization whereby PTSD symptoms are triggered by threat cues that merely resemble the index trauma.


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