Brain connectivity is lower in adults with PTSD or a history of sexual abuse

Kathleen I Crum, Julianne C Flanagan, Brandon Vaughan, Joseph Aloi, Megan M Moran-Santa Maria, Sudie E Back, Kathleen T Brady, Jane E Joseph
Graphic representation of the VAN-DAN network of the brain, a grey brain with light green and blue dots connected by lines in corresponding colors
The VAN-DAN network of the brain. Image credit: Dr. Jane Joseph, Medical University of South Carolina


  • PTSD is related to ventral and dorsal neural attention network dysfunction.
  • Childhood sexual (not physical) abuse is related to similar dysfunction to PTSD.
  • Oxytocin administration may mitigate dysfunction related to PTSD and sexual abuse.



Childhood maltreatment is linked to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in adulthood. Neural attention network function contributes to resilience against PTSD following maltreatment; oxytocin administration alters functional connectivity differentially among resilient to PTSD groups. The present study examined intrinsic connectivity between ventral and dorsal neural attention networks (VAN and DAN) to clarify the nature of dysfunction versus resilience in the context of maltreatment-related PTSD, and to explore differential dysfunction related to varied aspects of maltreatment. Oxytocin administration was examined as a factor in these relationships. Resting-state functional connectivity data were collected from 39 adults with maltreatment histories, with and without PTSD, who were randomly assigned to receive oxytocin or placebo. We found that PTSD and sexual abuse (SA) were associated with reduced VAN-DAN connectivity. There were no significant effects with regard to physical abuse. Oxytocin was associated with greater VAN-DAN connectivity strength. These preliminary findings suggest dysfunction within attentional systems in PTSD, as well as following SA. Further, oxytocin may help ameliorate attentional neurocircuitry dysfunction in individuals with PTSD and those with maltreatment histories.



    Childhood maltreatment; Dorsal attention network; Oxytocin; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Resting-state functional connectivity; Ventral attention network.

    Posted on BrainLine November 5, 2021. Reviewed November 5, 2021.