The role of frontal EEG asymmetry in post-traumatic stress disorder

Thomas Meyer*, Tom Smeets, Timo Giesbrecht, Conny W. E. M. Quaedflieg, Fren T. Y. Smulders, Ewout H. Meijer, Harald L. G. J. Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Frontal alpha asymmetry, a biomarker derived from electroencephalography (EEG) recordings, has often been associated with psychological adjustment, with more left-sided frontal activity predicting approach motivation and lower levels of depression and anxiety. This suggests high relevance to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a disorder comprising anxiety and dysphoria symptoms. We review this relationship and show that frontal asymmetry can be plausibly linked to neuropsychological abnormalities seen in PTSD. However, surprisingly few studies (k=8) have directly addressed frontal asymmetry in PTSD, mostly reporting that trait frontal asymmetry has little (if any) predictive value. Meanwhile, preliminary evidence suggest that state-dependent asymmetry during trauma-relevant stimulation distinguishes PTSD patients from resilient individuals. Thus, exploring links between provocation-induced EEG asymmetry and PTSD appears particularly promising. Additionally, we recommend more fine-grained analyses into PTSD symptom clusters in relation to frontal asymmetry. Finally, we highlight hypotheses that may guide future research and help to fully apprehend the practical and theoretical relevance of this biological marker.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-77
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • Frontal EEG asymmetry
  • Cerebral lateralization
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

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