Brain structures in pediatric maltreatment-related posttraumatic stress disorder: a sociodemographically matched study

Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Dec 1;52(11):1066-78. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01459-2.


Background: Previous investigations suggest that maltreated children evidence alterations of chemical mediators of stress and adverse brain development. Previous anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain studies have not controlled for socioeconomic status.

Methods: In this study, 28 psychotropic naïve children and adolescents with maltreatment-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 66 sociodemographically similar healthy control subjects underwent comprehensive clinical assessments and anatomical MRI brain scans.

Results: Compared with control subjects, subjects with PTSD had smaller intracranial, cerebral, and prefrontal cortex, prefrontal cortical white matter, and right temporal lobe volumes and areas of the corpus callosum and its subregions (2, 4, 5, 6, and 7), and larger frontal lobe cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volumes than control subjects. The total midsagittal area of corpus callosum and middle and posterior regions remained smaller in subjects with PTSD, whereas right, left, and total lateral ventricles and frontal lobe CSF were proportionally larger than in control subjects, after adjustment for cerebral volume. Brain volumes positively correlated with age of onset of PTSD trauma and negatively correlated with duration of abuse. Significant gender x group effect demonstrated greater lateral ventricular volume increases in maltreated male subjects with PTSD than maltreated female subjects with PTSD. No hippocampal differences were seen.

Conclusions: These data provide further evidence to suggest that maltreatment-related PTSD is associated with adverse brain development. These data also suggest that male children may be more vulnerable to these effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / pathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology