Brain morphometry in female victims of intimate partner violence with and without posttraumatic stress disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Dec 1;52(11):1089-101. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01413-0.


Background: To examine neuroanatomical morphometry in adult female victims of intimate partner violence with and without posttraumatic stress disorder.

Methods: Seventeen nonvictimized comparison subjects and 22 victims of intimate partner violence, 11 with and 11 without posttraumatic stress disorder, were studied. Using quantitative magnetic resonance imaging, three mesial temporal lobe areas were measured: hippocampus, amygdala, and parahippocampal gyrus. Additionally, whole brain morphometry provided fluid, gray, and white matter volumes of the cortex and cerebellum for exploratory analyses. Relationships of morphometric measures to symptoms, abuse history, and neuropsychological function were examined.

Results: Intimate partner violence subjects with posttraumatic stress disorder did not demonstrate significantly smaller hippocampal or other mesial temporal lobe volumes. Overall, intimate partner violence subjects had smaller supratentorial cranial vaults and smaller frontal and occipital gray matter volumes relative to nonvictimized comparison subjects. Supratentorial cranial vault volume was negatively correlated with severity of childhood physical abuse, but not with intimate partner violence or posttraumatic stress disorder severity. Trails B performance was negatively correlated with frontal gray matter volume.

Conclusions: These findings are inconsistent with prior reports of smaller hippocampal volumes in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder. Rather, the findings point to cerebral abnormalities that may reflect the influence of early trauma on neurodevelopmental processes or denote brain morphometric characteristics of persons at increased risk for serious psychosocial adversity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Domestic Violence*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / pathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology