Structural white matter changes in adults and children with posttraumatic stress disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
ABSTRACT: White matter plasticity occurs throughout life due to learning and can be a protective factor against as well as a vulnerability factor for the development of mental disorders. In this systematic review we summarize findings on structural white matter changes in children and adults with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and relate them to theoretical accounts of the pathophysiology of PTSD with a focus on the disturbed processing of contexts and associated problems in emotional and cognitive processing and PTSD symptomatology. We particularly examine studies reporting fractional anisotropy (FA) measured with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). We further subdivided the studies in adult-onset PTSD with traumatic experience in adulthood, adult-onset PTSD with traumatic experience in childhood and children with PTSD. We included 30 studies comprising almost 1700 participants with 450 adults and 300 children suffering from PTSD. Our systematic review showed that for children with PTSD and adult-onset PTSD with childhood trauma, a decrease in FA in the corpus collosum, most prominently in the anterior and posterior midbody, the isthmus and splenium were reported. For adult-onset PTSD with traumatic experience in adulthood, changes in FA in the anterior and posterior part of the cingulum, the superior longitudinal fasciculus and frontal regions were found. Using GingerAle, we also performed a coordinate-based meta-analysis of 14 studies of adult-onset PTSD with traumatic experience in adulthood and did not find any significant clusters. Our results suggest that changes in white matter microstructure vary depending on traumatic experience and are associated with changes in brain circuits related to the processing of contexts. Finally, we present methodological considerations for future studies.
Project description:Many brain imaging studies have demonstrated reductions in gray and white matter volumes in alcoholism, with fewer investigators using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine the integrity of white matter pathways. Among various medical conditions, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two comorbid diseases that have similar degenerative effects on the white matter integrity. Therefore, understanding and differentiating these effects would be very important in characterizing alcoholism and PTSD. Alcoholics are known to have neurocognitive deficits in decision-making, particularly in decisions related to emotionally-motivated behavior, while individuals with PTSD have deficits in emotional regulation and enhanced fear response. It is widely believed that these types of abnormalities in both alcoholism and PTSD are related to fronto-limbic dysfunction. In addition, previous studies have shown cortico-limbic fiber degradation through fiber tracking in alcoholism. DTI was used to measure white matter fractional anisotropy (FA), which provides information about tissue microstructure, possibly indicating white matter integrity. We quantitatively investigated the microstructure of white matter through whole brain DTI analysis in healthy volunteers (HV) and alcohol dependent subjects without PTSD (ALC) and with PTSD (ALC+PTSD). These data show significant differences in FA between alcoholics and non-alcoholic HVs, with no significant differences in FA between ALC and ALC+PTSD in any white matter structure. We performed a post-hoc region of interest analysis that allowed us to incorporate multiple covariates into the analysis and found similar results. HV had higher FA in several areas implicated in the reward circuit, emotion, and executive functioning, suggesting that there may be microstructural abnormalities in white matter pathways that contribute to neurocognitive and executive functioning deficits observed in alcoholics. Furthermore, our data do not reveal any differences between ALC and ALC+PTSD, suggesting that the effect of alcohol on white matter microstructure may be more significant than any effect caused by PTSD.
Project description:Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among recent military veterans and involve substantial symptom overlap, making clinical distinction and effective intervention difficult. Emerging evidence of cerebral white matter abnormalities associated with mTBI may provide a biological measure to inform diagnosis and treatment, but the potentially confounding effects between PTSD and mTBI have largely gone unexamined. We collected diffusion imaging data from 133 recently-deployed American service members who developed PTSD and/or sustained mTBI, or had neither condition. Effects of PTSD and mTBI on traditional tensor-based measures of cerebral white matter integrity (fractional anisotropy [FA] and mean diffusivity [MD]) were compared in anatomical regions of interest and individual voxels throughout the brain. Generalized FA (GFA), which allows for multiple fiber orientations per voxel, was also included to improve sensitivity in white matter areas containing crossing or diverging axon bundles. PTSD was consistently associated with high GFA in select brain regions, greater likelihood of regions and voxels with abnormally low MD, and a greater number of voxels with abnormally high FA, while mTBI was associated with fewer high MD regions. Overall, PTSD was associated with more restricted diffusion (low MD) and greater anisotropy (high GFA) in regions of crossing/diverging fibers poorly characterized by a single tensor (FA), suggesting that interstitial fibers may be involved. Contrary to earlier results in a sample without PTSD, mTBI was not associated with anisotropy abnormalities, perhaps indicating the cooccurrence of PTSD and mTBI requires special consideration with regard to structural brain connectivity.
Project description:Marijuana (MJ) use and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have both been associated with abnormalities in brain white matter tracts, including the cingulum and the anterior thalamic radiations (ATR), which project from subcortical regions to frontal cortex. Studies have not assessed the integrity of these tracts in patients with comorbid PTSD and MJ use. To examine effects of PTSD and MJ use on brain structure, we performed diffusion tensor imaging scans on seventy-two trauma-exposed participants, categorized into four groups: those with PTSD who used MJ at least weekly (PTSD+MJ; n?=?20), those with PTSD with no regular MJ use (PTSD; n?=?19), trauma-exposed controls without PTSD who used MJ (TEC+MJ; n?=?14) and trauma-exposed controls with no PTSD or MJ use (TEC; n?=?19). White matter integrity was evaluated by calculating fractional anisotropy (FA). Results showed that while FA values in the right ATR and the cingulum differed across groups, there were no significant interactions between PTSD and MJ in any white matter tracts, indicating that MJ exposure neither normalizes nor worsens white matter abnormalities in those with PTSD. Further study is needed to evaluate the impact of MJ use on other neurobiological markers of PTSD.
Project description:Altered brain anatomy in specific gray-matter regions has been shown in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recently, white-matter tracts have become a focus of research in PTSD. The corpus callosum (CC) is the principal white-matter fiber bundle, crucial in relaying sensory, motor and cognitive information between hemispheres. Alterations in CC fibers have been reported in PTSD and might be assumed to underlie substantial behavioral and cognitive sequelae; however most diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies in adult-onset PTSD failed to address the clinical correlates between imaging and PTSD symptoms severity, behavioral manifestation and cognitive functions. In the current study we examined (a) to what extent microstructural integrity of the CC is associated with memory performance and (b) whether imaging and cognitive parameters are associated with PTSD symptom severity. DTI data were obtained and fractional anisotropy (FA) values were computed for 16 patients and 14 controls. PTSD symptom severity was assessed by employing the clinician administered PTSD scale (CAPS) and memory was tested using a task probing item and associative memory for words and pictures. Significant correlations were found between PTSD symptoms severity, memory accuracy and reaction-time to CC FA values in the PTSD group. This study demonstrates meaningful clinical and cognitive correlates of microstructural connectivity. These results have implications for diagnostic tools and future studies aimed at identifying individuals at risk for PTSD.
Project description:Studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are complicated by wide variability in the intensity and duration of prior stressors in patient participants, secondary effects of chronic psychiatric illness, and a variable history of treatment with psychiatric medications. In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies, patient samples have often been small, and they were not often compared to similarly stressed patients without PTSD in order to control for general stress effects. Findings from these studies have been inconsistent. The present study investigated whole-brain microstructural alterations of white matter in a large drug-naive population who survived a specific, severe traumatic event (a major 8.0-magnitude earthquake). Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), we explored group differences between 88 PTSD patients and 91 matched traumatized non-PTSD controls in fractional anisotropy (FA), as well as its component elements axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD), and examined these findings in relation to findings from deterministic DTI tractography. Relations between white matter alterations and psychiatric symptom severity were examined. PTSD patients, relative to similarly stressed controls, showed an FA increase as well as AD and RD changes in the white matter beneath left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and forceps major. The observation of increased FA in the PTSD group suggests that the pathophysiology of PTSD after a specific acute traumatic event is distinct from what has been reported in patients with several years duration of illness. Alterations in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex may be an important aspect of illness pathophysiology, possibly via the region's established role in fear extinction circuitry. Use-dependent myelination or other secondary compensatory changes in response to heightened demands for threat appraisal and emotion regulation may be involved.
Project description:BackgroundAlthough childhood adversities are known to predict increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after traumatic experiences, it is unclear whether this association varies by childhood adversity or traumatic experience types or by age.AimsTo examine variation in associations of childhood adversities with PTSD according to childhood adversity types, traumatic experience types and life-course stage.MethodEpidemiological data were analysed from the World Mental Health Surveys (n = 27 017).ResultsFour childhood adversities (physical and sexual abuse, neglect, parent psychopathology) were associated with similarly increased odds of PTSD following traumatic experiences (odds ratio (OR) = 1.8), whereas the other eight childhood adversities assessed did not predict PTSD. Childhood adversity-PTSD associations did not vary across traumatic experience types, but were stronger in childhood-adolescence and early-middle adulthood than later adulthood.ConclusionsChildhood adversities are differentially associated with PTSD, with the strongest associations in childhood-adolescence and early-middle adulthood. Consistency of associations across traumatic experience types suggests that childhood adversities are associated with generalised vulnerability to PTSD following traumatic experiences.
Project description:Among American Indians, prior research has found associations between early life trauma and the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood. Given the physiological changes associated with PTSD, early life trauma could indirectly contribute to chronic disease risk. However, the impact of early life trauma on adult physical health in this population has not been previously investigated.We evaluated associations among early life trauma, PTSD, and 13 physiological biomarkers that index cardiovascular, metabolic, neuroendocrine, anthropometric, and immune function in adulthood by conducting correlation and structural equation modeling path analyses (N?=?197). Physiological systems were analyzed individually as well as in a composite measure of allostatic load.We found early life trauma was related to PTSD, which in turn was related to elevated allostatic load in adulthood. Among the various components of allostatic load, the neuroendocrine system was the only one significantly related to early life stress and subsequent PTSD development.Changes in allostatic load might reflect adaptive adjustments that maximize short-term survival by enhancing stress reactivity, but at a cost to later health. Interventions should focus on improving access to resources for children who experience early life trauma in order to avoid PTSD and other harmful sequelae.
Project description:Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition which can develop after exposure to traumatic stressors. Seventy-five adults were recruited from the community, 25 diagnosed with PTSD along with 25 healthy and 25 trauma-exposed age- and gender-matched controls. Participants underwent clinical assessment and magnetic resonance imaging. A previous voxel based morphometry (VBM) study using the same subject cohort identified decreased grey matter (GM) volumes within frontal/subcortical brain regions including the hippocampus, amygdala, and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study examines the microstructural integrity of white matter (WM) tracts connecting the aforementioned regions/structures. Using diffusion tensor imaging, we investigated the integrity of frontal/subcortical WM tracts between all three subject groups. Trauma exposed subjects with and without PTSD diagnosis were identified to have significant disruption in WM integrity as indexed by decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) in the uncinate fasciculus (UF), cingulum cingulate gyrus (CCG), and corpus callosum (CC), when compared with healthy non-trauma-exposed controls. Significant negative correlations were found between total Clinician Administered PTSD scale (CAPS) lifetime clinical subscores and FA values of PTSD subjects in the right UF, CCG, CC body, and right superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF). An analysis between UF and SLF FA values and VBM determined rostral ACC GM values found a negative correlation in PTSD subjects. Findings suggest that compromised WM integrity in important tracts connecting limbic structures such as the amygdala to frontal regions including the ACC (i.e., the UF and CCG) may contribute to impairments in threat/fear processing associated with PTSD.
Project description:Alterations in the microarchitecture of the posterior cingulum (PC), a white matter tract proximal to the hippocampus that facilitates communication between the entorhinal and cingulate cortices, have been observed in individuals with psychiatric disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PC decrements may be a heritable source of vulnerability for the development of affective disorders; however, genetic substrates for these white matter abnormalities have not been identified. The FKBP5 gene product modulates glucocorticoid receptor function and has been previously associated with differential hippocampal structure, function, and affect disorder risk. Thus, FKBP5 is an attractive genetic target for investigations of PC integrity. We examined associations between PC integrity, measured through diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and fractional anisotropy (FA; an index of white matter integrity), and polymorphisms in the FKBP5 SNP rs1360780 in a sample of 82 traumatized female civilians. Findings indicated that, compared with individuals without this allele, individuals who carried two 'risk' alleles for this FKBP5 SNP (T allele; previously associated with mood and anxiety disorder risk) demonstrated significantly lower FA in the left PC, even after statistically controlling for variance associated with age, trauma exposure, and PTSD symptoms. These data suggest that specific allelic variants for an FKBP5 polymorphism are associated with decrements in the left PC microarchitecture. These white matter abnormalities may be a heritable biological marker that indicates increased vulnerability for the development of psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Traumatic experience can result in life-long changes in the ability to cope with future stressors and emotionally salient events. These experiences, particularly during early development, are a significant risk factor for later life anxiety disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, because traumatic experience typically results in strong episodic memories, it is not known whether such long-term memories are necessary for particular features of PTSD, such as enhanced fear and anxiety. Here, we used a fear conditioning procedure in juvenile rats before maturation of the neural systems supporting declarative memory to assess the necessity of early memory to the later life development of PTSD-related symptoms. METHODS:Nineteen-day old rats were exposed to unpredictable and inescapable footshocks, and fear memory for the shock context was assessed during adulthood. Thereafter, adult animals were either exposed to single-trial fear conditioning or elevated plus maze or sacrificed for basal diurnal corticosterone and quantification of neuronal glucocorticoid and neuropeptide Y receptors. RESULTS:Early trauma exposed rats displayed stereotypic footshock reactivity, yet by adulthood, hippocampus-dependent contextual fear-related memory was absent. However, adult rats showed sensitized fear learning, aberrant basal circadian fluctuations of corticosterone, increased amygdalar glucocorticoid receptors, decreased time spent in the open arm of an elevated plus maze, and an odor aversion associated with early-life footshocks. CONCLUSIONS:These results suggest that traumatic experience during developmental periods of hippocampal immaturity can promote lifelong changes in symptoms and neuropathology associated with human PTSD, even if there is no explicit memory of the early trauma.