Role of the dorsal periaqueductal gray in posttraumatic stress disorder: mediation by dopamine and neurokinin

M. L. Brandão, T. A. Lovick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
191 Downloads (Pure)


In susceptible individuals, exposure to intensely traumatic life events can lead to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including long-term dysregulation of the contextual processing of aversive stimuli, the overgeneralization of learned fear, and impairments in the ability to learn or respond to safety signals. The neuropathophysiological changes that underlie PTSD remain incompletely understood. Attention has focused on forebrain structures associated with fear processing. Here we consider evidence from human and animal studies that long-lasting changes in functional connectivity between the midbrain periaqueductal gray (dPAG) and amygdala may be one of the precipitating events that contribute to PTSD. Long-lasting neuroplastic changes in the dPAG can persist after a single aversive stimulation and are pharmacologically labile. The early stage (at least up to 24 h post-stimulation) involves neurokinin-1 receptor-mediated events in the PAG and amygdala and is also regulated by dopamine, both of which are mainly involved in transferring ascending aversive information from the dPAG to higher brain structures, mainly the amygdala. Changes in the functional connectivity within the dPAG-amygdala circuit have been reported in PTSD patients. We suggest that further investigations of plasticity and pharmacology of the PAG-amygdala network provide a promising target for understanding pathophysiological circuitry that underlies PTSD in humans and that dopaminergic and neurokininergic drugs may have a potential for the treatment of psychiatric disorders that are associated with a dysfunctional dPAG.

Original languageEnglish
Article number232 (2019)
Number of pages9
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2019


  • dPAG
  • PTSD
  • Fear
  • Dopamine
  • Neurokinin
  • Amygdala

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