A significant body of literature documents the neural mechanisms involved in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there is very little empirical work considering the influence of culture on these underlying mechanisms. Accumulating cultural neuroscience research clearly indicates that cultural differences in self-representation modulate many of the same neural processes proposed to be aberrant in PTSD. The objective of this review paper is to consider how culture may impact on the neural mechanisms underlying PTSD. We first outline five key affective and cognitive functions and their underlying neural correlates that have been identified as being disrupted in PTSD: (1) fear dysregulation; (2) attentional biases to threat; (3) emotion and autobiographical memory; (4) self-referential processing; and (5) attachment and interpersonal processing. Second, we consider prominent cultural theories and review the empirical research that has demonstrated the influence of cultural variations in self-representation on the neural substrates of these same five affective and cognitive functions. Finally, we propose a conceptual model that suggests that these five processes have major relevance to considering how culture may influence the neural processes underpinning PTSD.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder