Hypervigilance or shutdown? Electrophysiological processing of trauma-unrelated aversive stimuli after traumatic life events

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) research indicates that hyper-reactivity to trauma-related stimuli reflects reduced prefrontal cortex (PFC) modulation of amygdala reactivity. However, other studies indicate a dissociative “shutdown” reaction to overwhelming aversive stimuli, possibly reflecting PFC over-modulation. To explore this, we used an Event-Related Potential (ERP) oddball paradigm to study P3 responses in the presence of the following: 1. Trauma-unrelated morbid distractors (e.g., “injured bear”) related to the Rorschach inkblot test, and 2. Negative distractors (e.g., “significant failure”), among participants with high post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTS; n = 20), low PTS (n = 17), and controls (n = 15). Distractors were presented at 20% frequency amongst the more frequent (60%) neutral standard stimuli (e.g., “desk lamp”) and the equally frequent (20%) neutral trauma-unrelated target stimulus (“golden fish”). P3 amplitudes were high in the presence of morbid distractors and low in the presence of negative distractors only amongst the control group. Possible mechanisms underlying the lack of P3 amplitude modulation after trauma are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1185-1197
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Volume241
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Keywords

  • Aversive stimuli
  • ERP
  • Emotional shutdown
  • Hypervigilance
  • Trauma
  • Trauma-unrelated stimuli

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience

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