Posttraumatic stress symptomatology and abnormal neural responding during emotion regulation under cognitive demands: Mediating effects of personality

Michael Sun, Craig A. Marquardt, Seth G. Disner, Philip C. Burton, Nicholas D. Davenport, Shmuel Lissek, Scott R. Sponheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often complicated by the after-effects of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The mixture of brain conditions results in abnormal affective and cognitive functioning, as well as maladaptive behavior. To better understand how brain activity explains cognitive and emotional processes in these conditions, we used an emotional N-back task and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study neural responses in US military veterans after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, we sought to examine whether hierarchical dimensional models of maladaptive personality could account for the relationship between combat-related brain conditions and fMRI responses under cognitive and affective challenge. FMRI data, measures of PTSD symptomatology (PTSS), blast-induced mTBI (bmTBI) severity, and maladaptive personality (MMPI-2-RF) were gathered from 93 veterans. Brain regions central to emotion regulation were selected for analysis, and consisted of bilateral amygdala, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal (dlPFC), and ventromedial prefrontal/subgenual anterior cingulate (vmPFC-sgACC). Cognitive load increased activity in dlPFC and reduced activity in emotional responding brain regions. However, individuals with greater PTSS showed blunted deactivations in bilateral amygdala and vmPFC-sgACC, and weaker responses in right dlPFC. Additionally, we found that elevated emotional/internalizing dysfunction (EID), specifically low positive emotionality (RC2), accounted for PTSS-related changes in bilateral amygdala under increased cognitive load. Findings suggest that PTSS might result in amygdala and vmPFC-sgACC activity resistant to moderation by cognitive demands, reflecting emotion dysregulation despite a need to marshal cognitive resources. Anhedonia may be an important target for interventions that improve the affective and cognitive functioning of individuals with PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPersonality Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© US Government 2020.


  • Attention
  • Emotion regulation
  • FMRI
  • MMPI-2-RF
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Veterans

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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