ISSTD Honors McLean Researchers and Colleagues With the Pierre Janet Award

Presented by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation to recognize research into dissociative disorders and/or trauma

June 11, 2021

A team of research collaborators at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital/Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging received the Pierre Janet Award from the International Society of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). This award is given to honor the best clinical, theoretical, or research paper in the field of dissociative disorders and/or trauma within the past year.

Story Highlights

  • Investigators from McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital/Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging received the award for their paper “Large-Scale Functional Brain Network Architecture Changes Associated With Trauma-Related Dissociation”
  • The Pierre Janet Award recognizes the best clinical, theoretical, or research paper in the field of dissociative disorders and/or trauma within the past year

The paper, “Large-Scale Functional Brain Network Architecture Changes Associated With Trauma-Related Dissociation,” appeared on the cover of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

This NIMH-funded study (R21MH112956 to Milissa Kaufman, MD, PhD, and Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD) used a highly innovative, machine-learning neuroimaging technique.

The technique, developed by co-senior author Hesheng Liu, PhD, tested whether intrinsic functional brain network connectivity could estimate severe dissociative symptoms at the individual level in 65 treatment-seeking women with histories of childhood abuse and current post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Half of the women participating in this study also had dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Researchers look at neuroimaging scans on computer screen

Results showed that severe dissociative symptoms have neurobiological substrates distinct from PTSD symptom severity and extent of childhood trauma. Specifically, results suggest that dissociative symptoms may depend on connections between regions in the default mode and frontoparietal control networks.

As detailed by the lead author, Lauren A.M. Lebois, PhD, “This paper contributes to the growing body of literature demonstrating a brain basis for trauma-related dissociation. Biological evidence is particularly compelling regarding the legitimacy of psychiatric symptoms.”

“Increased awareness and acceptance of dissociative symptoms in PTSD and DID may motivate patients to seek assessment and care, medical practitioners to provide adequate care, and insurance companies to cover treatment,” said Lebois. “Better understanding of the biological correlates of trauma-related dissociation may also inform treatment approaches.”

In addition, stated Lebois, “Our work represents a foundational step toward building a functional connectivity fingerprint of trauma-related dissociation that may eventually contribute to improved diagnostic and biomarker tools to better understand neural activity in people who have experienced trauma, PTSD, and DID.”

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