Alterations in the Three Components of Selfhood in Persons with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: A Pilot qEEG Neuroimaging Study

The Open Neuroimaging Journal 30 Apr 2018 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874440001812010042


Background and Objective:

Understanding how trauma impacts the self-structure of individuals suffering from the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms is a complex matter and despite several attempts to explain the relationship between trauma and the “Self”, this issue still lacks clarity. Therefore, adopting a new theoretical perspective may help understand PTSD deeper and to shed light on the underlying psychophysiological mechanisms.


In this study, we employed the “three-dimensional construct model of the experiential selfhood” where three major components of selfhood (phenomenal first-person agency, embodiment, and reflection/narration) are related to three Operational Modules (OMs) of the self-referential brain network. These modules can be reliably estimated through operational synchrony analysis of the Electroencephalogram (EEG). Six individuals with PTSD symptoms and twenty-nine sex-, age- and demographic- (race, education, marital status) matched healthy controls underwent resting state EEG signal acquisition with the following estimation of the synchrony strength within every OM.


Our results indicate that subjects with PTSD symptoms had significantly stronger EEG operational synchrony within anterior and right posterior OMs as well as significantly weaker EEG operational synchrony within left posterior OM compared to healthy controls. Moreover, increased the functional integrity of the anterior OM was positively associated with hyperactivity symptoms, reduced synchrony of the left posterior OM was associated with greater avoidance, and increased right posterior OM integrity was positively correlated with intrusion and mood symptoms.


The results are interpreted in light of the triad model of selfhood and its theoretical and clinical implications (including a new treatment approach) are discussed.

Keywords: Self-referential brain network, Default-mode network, DMN, Subjective sense of self, First-person perspective, Electroencephalogram, EEG, Alpha rhythm, Operational synchrony, Functional connectivity, PTSD, Traumatic events.
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