Longitudinal MRI study of hippocampal volume in trauma survivors with PTSD

Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Aug;158(8):1248-51. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.158.8.1248.


Objective: The authors prospectively explored whether a reduction in the volume of the hippocampus occurs in recent trauma survivors who develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method: Thirty-seven survivors of traumatic events were assessed within a week of the traumatic event and 6 months later. The assessment included magnetic resonance imaging of the brain (including 124 coronal slices of 1.5-mm thickness), psychometric testing, and structured clinical interviews. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale conferred PTSD diagnoses at 6 months.

Results: Ten subjects (27%) had PTSD at 6 months. The subjects with PTSD did not differ from those without PTSD in hippocampal volume (right or left) at 1 week or 6 months. There was no reduction in hippocampal volume in the PTSD subjects between 1 week and 6 months.

Conclusions: Smaller hippocampal volume is not a necessary risk factor for developing PTSD and does not occur within 6 months of expressing the disorder. This brain abnormality might occur in individuals with chronic or complicated PTSD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data