Mission: Better understand the brain mechanisms in individuals experiencing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) using neuroimaging tools and cognitive testing in order to identify targets for interventions or treatments.

Neural correlates of conceptual-level fear generalization in posttraumatic stress disorder

Rajendra A. Morey, Courtney C. Haswell, Daniel Stjepanović, VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, Joseph E. Dunsmoor, Kevin S. LaBar

res3 We found that PTSD was associated with an enhanced neural response in fronto-limbic, midline, and occipitotemporal regions to a learned representation of threat that is based on previously established conceptual knowledge of the relationship between basic-level exemplars within a semantic category. Behaviorally, veterans with PTSD were somewhat slower to differentiate threat and safety categories as compared with trauma-exposed veteran controls owing in part to an initial overgeneralized behavioral response to the safe category. Read the full article in Neuropsychopharmacology .

Amygdala nuclei volume and shape in military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder

Rajendra A. Morey, Emily C. Clarke, Courtney C. Haswell, Rachel D. Phillips, Ashley N. Clausen, Mary S. Mufford, Zeynep Saygin, VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, H. Ryan Wagner, Kevin S. LaBar

res3 Alternations in specific amygdala subregion volumes and regional shape distortions are associated with PTSD in trauma-exposed military veterans. Volume differences of the lateral and centromedial nucleus are associated with PTSD and imply a subregion-specific pattern that is consistent with the functional roles of those two nuclei in fear learning and fear expression behaviors. Read the full article in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.


Combat exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder, and head injuries differentially relate to alterations in cortical thickness in military Veterans

Ashley N. Clausen, Emily Clarke, Rachel D. Phillips, Courtney Haswell, VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, & Rajendra A. Morey

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These results may indicate that combat exposure severity, PTSD, and prior head injuries have differential impacts on cortical thickness in Veteran populations. Utilization of longitudinal research designs and implementation of multimodal neuroimaging approaches (i.e., functional and structural assessments) are warranted and will clarify the functional implications of the present findings. Read the full article in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Resting-state brain fluctuation and functional connectivity dissociate moral injury from posttraumatic stress disorder

Delin Sun , Rachel D. Phillips, Hannah L. Mulready, Stephen T. Zablonski, Jessica A. Turner, Matthew D. Turner, Kathryn McClymond, Jason A. Nieuwsma, and Rajendra A. Morey. 

Moral injury is closely associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and characterized by disturbances in social and moral cognition. Our results provide the first evidence that morally injurious events and PTSD symptoms have dissociable neural underpinnings, and that behaviorally distinct subcomponents of morally injurious events are different in neural responses. Read the full article in Depression & Anxiety .


Due to its ability to identify myelin rich areas in the brain, Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping (QSM) provides the ability to isolate specific components of white matter damage and gives a better idea of myelin integrity than Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) or Fractional Anisotropy (FA). As seen in the figure, QSM imaging reveals more TBI associated differences than FA.

Brain structural covariance network centrality in maltreated youth with PTSD and in maltreated youth resilient to PTSD

Delin Sun , Courtney C. Haswell, Rajendra A. Morey, and Michael D. De Bellis

Child maltreatment is a major cause of pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This work is the first to identify cortical thickness-based structural covariance network differences between maltreated youth with and without PTSD. Network differences are demonstrated in both networks unique to maltreated youth with PTSD and those resilient to PTSD. The networks identified are important for the successful attainment of age-appropriate social cognition, attention, emotional processing, and inhibitory control.


Fear learning circuitry is biased toward generalization of fear associations in posttraumatic stress disorder

RA Morey, JE Dunsmoor, CC Haswell, VM Brown, A Vora, J Weiner, D Stjepanovic, HR Wagner III, VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, and KS LaBar



Compared to trauma-exposed controls, PTSD patients exhibited more severe memory distortion of the fear-conditioned stimulus biased toward the face-stimulus expressing the highest fear intensity. PTSD patients exhibited a neural activation bias – greater activation that generalized toward the face-stimuli expressing higher fear intensity than the conditioned stimulus. Differential activation can be seen in various brain regions, including the locus coeruleus, inferior frontal gyrus, and thalamus. Read the article in Translational Psychiatry.


Amygdala volume changes with posttraumatic stress disorder in a large case-controlled veteran group

Rajendra A. Morey, M.D., M.S., Andrea L. Gold, M.S., Kevin S. LaBar, Ph.D., Shannon K. Beall, B.S., Vanessa M. Brown, B.A., Courtney C. Haswell, M.S., Jessica D. Nasser, Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, H. Ryan Wagner, Ph.D., and Gregory McCarthy, Ph.D.

PTSD is associated with atrophy of the hippocampus and amygdala in a large group (n = 186) of recent veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, the duration of illness appears to modulate the extent of atrophy. Read the article in Archives of General Psychiatry.


Neural systems for guilt from actions affecting self versus others

Rajendra A. Morey, Gregory McCarthy, Elizabeth S. Selgrade, Srishti Seth, Jessica D. Nassera, and Kevin S. LaBar
Specific brain regions are more highly activated for feelings of guilt when an individuals actions lead to harming others compared to harming only oneself. Regions such as the anterior inferior parietal (AIP) cortex, the anterior inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex are differentially involved. Read the article in NeuroImage.


Staying cool when things get hot: emotion regulation modulates neural mechanisms of memory encoding

Jasmeet Pannu Hayes, Rajendra A. Morey, Christopher M. Petty, Srishti Seth, Moria J. Smoski, Gregory McCarthy, and Kevin S. LaBar

res2During times of emotional stress, individuals often engage in emotion regulation to reduce the experiential and physiological impact of negative emotions. Neurobehavioral evidence shows that engaging in cognitive reappraisal is advantageous to both affective and mnemonic processes. Read the article in Frontiers.


Effects of chronic mild traumatic brain injury on white matter integrity in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans

Rajendra A. Morey, Courtney C. Haswell, Elizabeth S. Selgrade, Dino Massoglia, Chunlei Liu, Jonathan Weiner, Christine E. Marx, MIRECC Work Group, Ibolja Cernak, and Gregory McCarthy


Our results with DTI whole brain crossing fiber analysis shows that the duration of loss of consciousness (Blue Areas) and feeling dazed and confused (Pink Areas) predicts disruption of white matter in mild TBI. Read the article in Human Brain Mapping.


A comparison of automated segmentation and manual tracing for quantifying hippocampal and amygdala volumes

Rajendra A. Morey, Christopher M. Petty,  Yuan Xu, Jasmeet Pannu Hayes, H. Ryan Wagner II, Darrell V. Lewis, Kevin S. LaBar, Martin Styner, Gregory McCarthy

research4Shape analysis using surface mesh obtained with spherical harmonics, shows systematic differences between two popular segmentation tools (FreeSurfer and FIRST) and gold standard hand tracing of the hippocampus particularly in the head and tail sections. Read the article in NeuroImage.