© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc. By combining computational, morphological, and functional analyses, this study relates latent markers of associative threat learning to overt post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in combat veterans. Using reversal learning, we found that symptomatic veterans showed greater physiological adjustment to cues that did not predict what they had expected, indicating greater sensitivity to prediction errors for negative outcomes. This exaggerated weighting of prediction errors shapes the dynamic learning rate (associability) and value of threat predictive cues. The degree to which the striatum tracked the associability partially mediated the positive correlation between prediction-error weights and PTSD symptoms, suggesting that both increased prediction-error weights and decreased striatal tracking of associability independently contribute to PTSD symptoms. Furthermore, decreased neural tracking of value in the amygdala, in addition to smaller amygdala volume, independently corresponded to higher PTSD symptom severity. These results provide evidence for distinct neurocomputational contributions to PTSD symptoms.
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School of Medicine