Posttraumatic Growth EEG Neuromarkers: Translational Neural Comparisons with Resilience and PTSD in Trauma-Exposed Healthy Adults

January 1, 2023
European Journal of Psychotraumatology


Background: Supporting wellbeing beyond symptom reduction is necessary in trauma care. Research suggests increased posttraumatic growth (PTG) may promote wellbeing more effectively than posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom reduction alone. Understanding neurobiological mechanisms of PTG would support PTG intervention development. However, most PTG research to-date has been cross-sectional data self-reported through surveys or interviews.

Objective: Neural evidence of PTG and its coexistence with resilience and PTSD is limited. To advance neural PTG literature and contribute translational neuroscientific knowledge necessary to develop future objectively measurable neural-based PTG interventions.

Method: Alpha frequency EEG and validated psychological inventories measuring PTG, resilience, and PTSD symptoms were collected from 30 trauma-exposed healthy adults amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. EEG data were collected using custom MNE-Python software, and a wireless OpenBCI 16-channel dry electrode EEG headset. Psychological inventory scores were analysed in SPSS Statistics and used to categorise the EEG data. Power spectral density analyses, t-tests and ANOVAs were conducted within EEGLab to identify brain activity differentiating high and low PTG, resilience, and PTSD symptoms.

Results: Higher PTG was significantly differentiated from low PTG by higher alpha power in the left centro-temporal brain area around EEG electrode C3. A trend differentiating high PTG from PTSD was also indicated in this same location. Whole-scalp spectral topographies revealed alpha power EEG correlates of PTG, resilience and PTSD symptoms shared limited, but potentially meaningful similarities.

Conclusion: This research provides the first comparative neural topographies of PTG, resilience and PTSD symptoms in the known literature. Results provide objective neural evidence supporting existing theory depicting PTG, resilience and PTSD as independent, yet co-occurring constructs. PTG neuromarker alpha C3 significantly delineated high from low PTG and warrants further investigation for potential clinical application. Findings provide foundation for future neural-based interventions and research for enhancing PTG in trauma-exposed individuals.

Read the Article “Posttraumatic Growth EEG Neuromarkers: Translational Neural Comparisons with Resilience and PTSD in Trauma-Exposed Healthy Adults” Posttraumatic growth EEG neuromarkers

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