Cerebral GABA and Fear Conditioning in PTSD
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common and debilitating neuropsychiatric disorder in which an acute fear response to a traumatic event does not abate. This failure to recover from trauma is thought to be due at least in part to a deficit in learning not to fear situations and stimuli previously associated with the trauma (i.e., specifically due to a failure of extinction recall). Pavlovian fear conditioning can be simulated and measured experimentally in humans using a 2-day fear conditioning paradigm developed by our group, wherein conditioning and extinction learning phases are conducted on Day 1, and extinction recall is tested on Day 2.
Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence indicates that PTSD is associated with hyper-responsivity of the insular cortex and hyporesponsivity of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) during exposure to fear-inducing stimuli, consistent with altered excitability of brain regions mediating fear conditioning and extinction. As the brain's principal inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA exerts a prominent role in modulating neuronal excitability. Interestingly, there are reports that adjunctive treatment with GABA-enhancing antiepileptics is efficacious in PTSD. There is also evidence, albeit inconsistent, that lower serum GABA levels predict a more chronic course of the illness. However, it is unclear whether serum levels accurately reflect brain GABA, which may contribute to inconsistency of serum findings. Moreover, it is possible that GABA alterations may vary in their presence, nature and significance across brain regions implicated in PTSD. The proposed study will examine the relationship of PTSD symptoms and behavioral fear conditioning deficits with regional brain gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS).
We have the following aims and hypotheses:
- To determine whether GABA alterations are associated with the categorical diagnosis of PTSD and not merely exposure to trauma. It is hypothesized that PTSD will be associated with higher GABA in VMPFC and lower GABA in the right insula.
- To determine whether GABA levels are significantly associated with dimensional measures of PTSD symptom severity and individual symptom dimensions. It is predicted that higher GABA in the VMPFC and lower GABA in the right anterior insula will be associated with greater total symptom severity.
- To determine whether GABA in VMPFC and right anterior insula are significantly associated with measures of extinction recall failure and anxiety sensitivity in PTSD. It is hypothesized that VMPFC GABA will be positively correlated with skin conductance response to a conditioned stimulus that had previously been extinguished and insula GABA will be negatively correlated with anxiety sensitivity.
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
|Study Design:||Observational Model: Case Control
Time Perspective: Cross-Sectional
- Regional brain gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), right anterior insula, and right posterior temporal cortex [ Time Frame: Measured on the day of the MRI scan ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]Single voxel high-field H-MRS in the VMPFC, right insular cortex, and posterior temporal cortex using a MEGA-PRESS sequence at 3 Tesla will be used to detect and quantify GABA in these brain regions.
|Study Start Date:||February 2013|
|Estimated Study Completion Date:||February 2018|
|Estimated Primary Completion Date:||February 2018 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)|
No Axis I psychiatric disorder and no trauma exposure
Trauma-Exposed Normal Control
History of trauma exposure and subthreshold PTSD symptoms.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) diagnosis of PTSD as determined by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-Text Revised
Please refer to this study by its ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01800383
|Contact: Lauren Demersfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|United States, Massachusetts|
|Belmont, Massachusetts, United States, 02478|
|Principal Investigator:||Isabelle Rosso, PhD||Mclean Hospital|