Research Reports - Early changes in cortical emotion processing circuits after mild traumatic brain injury from motor vehicle collision

J Neurotrauma. 2016 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]

Wang X(1,)(2,)(3), Xie H(2), Cotton AS(1), Brickman KR(4), Lewis TJ(3), Wall
JT(2), Tamburrino MB(1), Bauer WR(2), Law K(1), McLean SA(5), Liberzon I(6).

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) patients frequently experience emotion
dysregulation symptoms, including post-traumatic stress. Although mTBI likely
affects cortical activation and structure, resulting in cognitive symptoms after
mTBI, early effects of mTBI on cortical emotion processing circuits have rarely
been examined. To assess early mTBI effects on cortical functional and structural
components of emotion processing, we assessed cortical activation to fearful
faces within the first 2 weeks after motor vehicle collision (MVC) in survivors
who did and did not experience mTBI. We also examined the thicknesses of cortical
regions with altered activation. MVC survivors with mTBI (n = 21) had
significantly less activation in left superior parietal gyrus (SPG) (-5.9, -81.8,
33.8; p = 10(-3.623)), left medial orbitofrontal gyrus (mOFG) (-4.7, 36.1, -19.3;
p = 10(-3.231)), and left and right lateral orbitofrontal gyri (lOFG) (left:
-16.0, 41.4, -16.6; p = 10(-2.573); right: 18.7, 22.7, -17.7; p = 10(-2.764))
than MVC survivors without mTBI (n = 23). SPG activation in mTBI survivors within
2 weeks after MVC was negatively correlated with subsequent post-traumatic stress
symptom severity at 3 months (r = -0.68, p = 0.03). Finally, the SPG region was
thinner in the mTBI survivors than in the non-mTBI survivors (F = 11.07,
p = 0.002). These results suggest that early differences in activation and
structure in cortical emotion processing circuits in trauma survivors who sustain
mTBI may contribute to the development of emotion-related symptoms. 

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