Auditory N2 Correlates of Treatment Response in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Gail D. Tillman, Michael A. Motes, Christina M. Bass, Elizabeth Ellen Morris, Penelope Jones, F. Andrew Kozel, John Hart, Michael A. Kraut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotional processing and cognitive control are implicated as being dysfunctional in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and targeted in cognitive processing therapy (CPT), a trauma-focused treatment for PTSD. The N2 event-related potential has been interpreted in the context of emotional processing and cognitive control. In this analysis of secondary outcome measures from a randomized controlled trial, we investigated the latency and amplitude changes of the N2 in responses to task-relevant target tones and task-irrelevant distractor sounds (e.g., a trauma-related gunshot and a trauma-unrelated lion's roar) and the associations between these responses and PTSD symptom changes. United States military veterans (N = 60) diagnosed with combat-related PTSD were randomized to either active or sham repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and received a CPT intervention that included a written trauma account element (CPT+A). Participants were tested before and 6 months after protocol completion. Reduction in N2 amplitude to the gunshot stimulus was correlated with reductions in reexperiencing, |r| =.445, and hyperarousal measures, |r| =.364. In addition, in both groups, the latency of the N2 event-related potential to the distractors became longer with treatment and the N2 latency to the task-relevant stimulus became shorter, ηp2 =.064, both of which are consistent with improved cognitive control. There were no between-group differences in N2 amplitude and latency. Normalized N2 latencies, reduced N2 amplitude to threatening distractors, and the correlation between N2 amplitude reduction and PTSD symptom reduction reflect improved cognitive control, consistent with the CPT+A objective of addressing patients’ abilities to respond more appropriately to trauma triggers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-100
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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