This study examined whether patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) would show an abnormal pattern of electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha asymmetries, which has been proposed for particular types of anxiety. Patients with PTSD (n = 22) or subsyndromal PTSD (n = 21), traumatized controls without PTSD (non-PTSD with MVA; n = 21), and healthy controls without MVA (n = 23) underwent measurement of EEG activity during baseline and exposure to a neutral, a positive, a negative, and an accident-related picture. Differences in brain asymmetry between groups were observed only during exposure to trauma-related material. PTSD and subsyndromal PTSD patients showed a pattern of enhanced right anterior and posterior activation, whereas non-PTSD with MVA participants showed the opposite pattern. Furthermore, posterior asymmetry in nontraumatized healthy controls varied with gender, with female participants showing a pattern of higher right posterior activation. The results support the hypothesis that symptomatic MVA survivors are characterized by a pattern of right hemisphere activation that is associated with anxious arousal and symptoms of PTSD during processing of trauma-specific information
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