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Functional Activation and Neural Networks in Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Related to Intimate Partner Violence

      Background

      Intimate partner violence (IPV) is one of the most common causes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women. Victims of IPV are often preoccupied by the anticipation of impending harm. This investigation tested the hypothesis that IPV-related PTSD individuals show exaggerated insula reactivity to the anticipation of aversive stimuli.

      Methods

      Fifteen women with a history of IPV and consequent PTSD (IPV-PTSD) and 15 non-traumatized control (NTC) women performed a task involving cued anticipation to images of positive and negative events during functional magnetic resonance imaging.

      Results

      Both groups showed increased activation of bilateral anterior insula during anticipation of negative images minus anticipation of positive images. Activation in right anterior/middle insula was significantly greater in the IPV-PTSD relative to the NTC group. Functional connectivity analysis revealed that changes in activation in right middle insula and bilateral anterior insula were more strongly associated with amygdala activation changes in NTC than in IPV-PTSD subjects.

      Conclusions

      This study revealed increased activation in the anterior/middle insula during negative anticipation in women with IPV-related PTSD. These findings in women with IPV could be a consequence of the IPV exposure, reflect pre-existing differences in insular function, or be due to the development of PTSD. Thus, future longitudinal studies need to examine these possibilities.

      Key Words

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