Toward a graph theoretical model of functional connectivity in chronic developmental traumatic stress disorders

Open Access
Antinori, Lilith Zaila
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Andrew Leonard Belmonte, Thesis Supervisor
  • Nate Brown, Honors Advisor
  • traumatic stress
  • graph theory
  • functional connectivity
  • neuroscience
Psychopathologies connected to traumatic stress have been a recognized phenomenon since the advent of psychotherapy. Efforts to characterize the symptomatology and to find neurological mechanisms of these disorders have been notoriously restricted by political motivation and technological limitations. At present, the medical community has not reached a formal consensus on whether psychopathology stemming from child abuse is a distinct entity from recognized disorders with similar symptom profiles (e.g. PTSD, see Herman 2012, Resick 2012) and does not appear to be making significant progress toward addressing this question. This thesis will examine the use of resting state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (rsfMRI) technology and graph theoretical modeling to investigate functional connectivity in brain. We will examine the fundamental challenges of combining rsfMRI with translational models of psychiatric conditions, and elaborate an awake animal imaging paradigm developed by the Translational Neuroimaging and Systems Neuroscience Lab at Penn State, where the author is a research assistant. We then propose a novel translational model to obtain the longitudinal data necessary to understand how sensory integration develops in the context of prolonged developmental abuse.