Neurophysiological Correlates of Collective Trauma Recall in 2009 L'Aquila Earthquake Survivors

Giuseppe Massaro, Daniela Altavilla, Paola Aceto, Gaia Romana Pellicano, Giada Lucarelli, Massimiliano Luciani, Carlo Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, we aimed to explore neural correlates of survivors of the 2009 L'Aquila, Italy earthquake in response to being shown pictures featuring their own city before and after an earthquake as well as those of an unfamiliar city. Moreover, we explored the associations among psychological variables and brain responses to the pictures of L'Aquila after the earthquake. Our final sample (N = 30 adults) comprised 15 survivors (M age = 31.40 years, SD = 9.42) and 15 controls (M age = 30.53 years, SD = 10.01). Participants’ electroencephalographic (EEG) data were recorded during a visual task that included earthquake-related stimuli. Participants were assessed for posttraumatic and dissociation symptoms and event-related potential components, and low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA) were analyzed. Compared to the control group, source localization in survivors indicated a lower intensity of the amygdala, hippocampal, parahippocampal, and temporopolar areas in response to visual stimuli concerning the earthquake, p <.001 to p <.0001. Results indicated a reduced limbic activation in response to visual stimuli that evoked the recall of earthquake in survivors. This finding suggests that survivors likely adopted a distancing strategy toward stimuli that may have elicited an emotional activation related to collective trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-697
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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