Most studies of neuro-functional patterns in trauma-exposed individuals have been conducted considerable time after the traumatic event. Hence little is known about neuro-functional processing shortly after trauma-exposure. We investigated brain activity patterns in response to trauma reminders as well as neutral and negative stimuli in individuals who had recently (within 3 weeks) been involved in a road traffic accident (RTA). Twenty-three RTA survivors and 17 non-trauma-exposed healthy controls (HCs) underwent functional MRI while viewing Trauma-specific, Negative, and Neutral pictures. Data were analyzed from four a priori regions of interest, including bilateral amygdala, subcallosal cortex, and medial prefrontal cortex. In addition, we performed a whole brain analysis and functional connectivity analysis during stimulus presentation. For both groups, Negative stimuli elicited more activity in the amygdala bilaterally than did Neutral and Trauma-specific stimuli. The whole brain analysis revealed higher activation in sensory processing related areas (bilateral occipital and temporal cortices and thalamus) as well as frontal and superior parietal areas, for the RTA group compared to HC, for Trauma-specific stimuli contrasted with Neutral stimuli. We also observed higher functional connectivity for Trauma-specific stimuli, between bilateral amygdala and somatosensory areas, for the RTA group compared to controls, when contrasted with Neutral stimuli. We argue that these results might indicate an attentional sensory processing bias toward Trauma-specific stimuli for trauma exposed individuals, a result in line with findings from the post-traumatic stress disorder literature.
This article looks at the findings from a study of brain activity patterns in response to trauma reminders in individuals who had recently been involved in a road traffic accident.