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Behavioral and neural correlates of disrupted orienting attention in posttraumatic stress disorder.

Russman Block S, King AP, Sripada RK, Weissman DH, Welsh R, Liberzon I. Behavioral and neural correlates of disrupted orienting attention in posttraumatic stress disorder. Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience. 2017 Apr 1; 17(2):422-436.

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Prior work has revealed that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with altered (a) attentional performance and (b) resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) in brain networks linked to attention. Here, we sought to characterize and link these behavioral and brain-based alterations in the context of Posner and Peterson's tripartite model of attention. Male military veterans with PTSD (N = 49; all deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan) and healthy age-and-gender-matched community controls (N = 26) completed the Attention Network Task. A subset of these individuals (36 PTSD and 21 controls) also underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess rsFC. The behavioral measures revealed that the PTSD group was impaired at disengaging spatial attention, relative to the control group. FMRI measures further revealed that, relative to the control group, the PTSD group exhibited greater rsFC between the salience network and (a) the default mode network, (b) the dorsal attention network, and (c) the ventral attention network. Moreover, problems with disengaging spatial attention increased the rsFC between the networks above in the control group, but not in the PTSD group. The present findings link PTSD to both altered orienting of spatial attention and altered relationships between spatial orienting and functional connectivity involving the salience network. Interventions that target orienting and disengaging spatial attention may be a new avenue for PTSD research.

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