Veterans with PTSD demonstrate amygdala hyperactivity while viewing threatening faces: A MEG study

Amy Badura-Brack*, Timothy J. McDermott, Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham, Tara J. Ryan, Maya M. Khanna, Daniel S. Pine, Yair Bar-Haim, Tony W. Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a major psychiatric disorder that is prevalent in combat veterans. Previous neuroimaging studies have found elevated amygdala activity in PTSD in response to threatening stimuli, but previous work has lacked the temporal specificity to study fast bottom-up fear responses involving the amygdala. Forty-four combat veterans, 28 with PTSD and 16 without, completed psychological testing and then a face-processing task during magnetoencephalography (MEG). The resulting MEG data were pre-processed, transformed into the time-frequency domain, and then imaged using a beamforming approach. We found that veterans with PTSD exhibited significantly stronger oscillatory activity from 50 to 450 ms in the left amygdala compared to veterans without PTSD while processing threatening faces. This group difference was not present while viewing neutral faces. The current study shows that amygdala hyperactivity in response to threatening cues begins quickly in PTSD, which makes theoretical sense as an adaptive bottom-up fear response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-232
Number of pages5
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Bottom-up
  • Fear
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Military
  • Oscillatory activity
  • Posttraumatic stress


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