Amygdala volume changes in posttraumatic stress disorder in a large case-controlled veterans group.
CONTEXT: Smaller hippocampal volumes are well established in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the relatively few studies of amygdala volume in PTSD have produced equivocal results. OBJECTIVE: To assess a large cohort of recent military veterans with PTSD and trauma-exposed control subjects, with sufficient power to perform a definitive assessment of the effect of PTSD on volumetric changes in the amygdala and hippocampus and of the contribution of illness duration, trauma load, and depressive symptoms. DESIGN: Case-controlled design with structural magnetic resonance imaging and clinical diagnostic assessments. We controlled statistically for the important potential confounds of alcohol use, depression, and medication use. SETTING: Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which is located in proximity to major military bases. PATIENTS: Ambulatory patients (n = 200) recruited from a registry of military service members and veterans serving after September 11, 2001, including a group with current PTSD (n = 99) and a trauma-exposed comparison group without PTSD (n = 101). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Amygdala and hippocampal volumes computed from automated segmentation of high-resolution structural 3-T magnetic resonance imaging. RESULTS: Smaller volume was demonstrated in the PTSD group compared with the non-PTSD group for the left amygdala (P = .002), right amygdala (P = .01), and left hippocampus (P = .02) but not for the right hippocampus (P = .25). Amygdala volumes were not associated with PTSD chronicity, trauma load, or severity of depressive symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: These results provide clear evidence of an association between a smaller amygdala volume and PTSD. The lack of correlation between trauma load or illness chronicity and amygdala volume suggests that a smaller amygdala represents a vulnerability to developing PTSD or the lack of a dose-response relationship with amygdala volume. Our results may trigger a renewed impetus for investigating structural differences in the amygdala, its genetic determinants, its environmental modulators, and the possibility that it reflects an intrinsic vulnerability to PTSD.
Morey, RA; Gold, AL; LaBar, KS; Beall, SK; Brown, VM; Haswell, CC; Nasser, JD; Wagner, HR; McCarthy, G; Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup,
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