What are the neural correlates to psychotic and dissociative experiences in refugee victims of torture?

​In collaboration with research partners at the Mental Health Center Ballerup, this study investigates the reward system in PTSD patients with psychotic experiences.

Experiences as torture may lead to a complex form of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which apart from the core symptoms of hyperarousal, flash-backs and anxiety encompasses persistent and pervasive impairments in affective, self and relational functioning.

Although PTSD is not classified as a psychotic disorder in either DSM-5 or ICD-10, clinical and epidemiological studies report that traumatised persons may even develop frank psychotic symptoms such as auditory and visual hallucinations, delusional thinking and paranoid ideas. Until now, very limited neuroimaging research has been done on survivors of torture who suffer from PTSD.

Between 2015 and 2018, this cross-sectional study will include 40 tortured male refugees with PTSD and 20 healthy control refugees matched on age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Study participants will undergo three days of interview and one day of neuroimaging.

Focus is on the neural underpinnings of psychotic symptoms, dissociative symptoms and emotional disturbances. To this end, we will study the neural processing during reward and emotional processing and exposure to auto-biographical trauma material.

PhD thesis based on data from this project:

  • Sigurd W Uldall ”A Neuroimaging Investigation of Severely Traumatised Refugees” (expected 2018)