Psychological Injury and Law

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 111–117 | Cite as

Simulating Emotional Responses in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: An fMRI Study

  • Richard A. BryantEmail author
  • Andrew Kemp
  • Kim Felmingham
  • Belinda Liddell
  • Gloria Olivieri
  • Anthony Peduto
  • Evian Gordon
  • Leanne M. Williams


This study tested the extent to which coached participants can simulate the neural responses of participants with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they are presented with signals of fear. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study blood oxygenation level-dependent signal during the presentations of fearful and neutral faces under both conscious and nonconscious (masked) conditions. Participants comprised 12 patients with PTSD and 12 trauma-exposed controls who were instructed to simulate PTSD. During conscious fear processing, simulators showed greater activation in the left amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) than PTSD participants. By contrast, during nonconscious processing, PTSD participants had greater MPFC activation than simulators. These findings suggest that coached simulators produce a profile of ‘over-responding’ to fear when controlled conscious processing is possible, but are not able to simulate the exaggerated medial prefrontal responses observed in PTSD participants under conditions of nonconscious processing.


Fear Neural networks Posttraumatic stress disorder Simulation 



This study was funded by an ARC Linkage Grant (LP0212048) and a NHMRC Program Grant (300403). We acknowledge the collaboration with the Brain Resource International Database (BRID) in recruitment and testing of participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Bryant
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Andrew Kemp
    • 1
  • Kim Felmingham
    • 1
  • Belinda Liddell
    • 1
  • Gloria Olivieri
    • 1
    • 3
  • Anthony Peduto
    • 1
    • 3
  • Evian Gordon
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Leanne M. Williams
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Brain Dynamics CentreWestmead Millennium InstituteSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyWestmead HospitalWestmeadAustralia
  4. 4.Brain Resource International DatabaseBrain Resource CompanySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Discipline of Psychological Medicine, Western Clinical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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