Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Changes to the Brain's Structure Are a Hallmark of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. (Smaller Hippocampal Volume)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Changes to the Brain's Structure Are a Hallmark of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. (Smaller Hippocampal Volume)

Article excerpt

BALTIMORE -- Specific brain changes, especially to the hippocampus, are becoming an established hallmark of posttraumatic stress disorder, judging from presentations by three speakers at the annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies:

Dr. Gerardo Villarreal reported that hippocampal volume was significantly smaller in 12 men with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than in 10 unaffected controls, as measured by MRI. The smaller hippocampal volumes were independent of total white matter volume.

The severity of PTSD correlated negatively with hippocampal volume. The higher the men's scores on central auditory processing testing, the smaller their hippocampal volume, reported Dr. Villarreal of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Other MRI findings suggest that age-related white matter atrophy was accelerated in patients with PTSD, who ranged in age from 25 to 57 years. "We are not sure why that is happening," Dr. Villarreal said.

During his presentation, Dr. Ramon Lindauer described increased blood flow in the brains of patients with PTSD. His study involved 24 civilians with PTSD, who randomized to either treatment or a waiting list group. The control group consisted of 15 police officers with trauma but none of the signs of PTSD.

All the subjects prepared scripts describing their personal traumatic events using the second-person mode.

Another person then audiotaped 30- to 35-second descriptions in a neutral tone of voice of their personal traumatic event, remarked Dr. Lindauer, a psychiatrist at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.

The subjects listened to the audiotape while they were undergoing single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT). Compared with the control group, the subjects with PTSD showed increased blood flow to the medial temporal lobes and the orbitofrontal cortex during symptoms provocation. …

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