Absence of hippocampal volume differences in survivors of the Nazi Holocaust with and without posttraumatic stress disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2005 May 30;139(1):53-64. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2005.02.007.


It remains unclear whether smaller hippocampal volume is a consistent feature of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and whether it accounts for the associated memory deficits observed in this illness. Hippocampal volume, comparison regions and memory performance were examined in Holocaust survivors with PTSD (PTSD+: n=14; 5 men, 9 women) and without PTSD (PTSD-: n=13; 6 men, 7 women) and a non-exposed control group of healthy Jewish adults (n=20; 13 men, 7 women). The subjects had medical examinations, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging, and memory testing. PTSD+ subjects had poorer memory performance than non-exposed subjects and PTSD- subjects, but they did not differ from either group in right or left hippocampal volume when gender and head size were taken into account. Older age and smaller left hippocampal volume were more strongly associated in the PTSD+ group than in the PTSD- groups. Holocaust survivors had larger superior temporal gyral and lateral temporal lobe volumes bilaterally than non-exposed subjects. Smaller hippocampal volume is not invariably associated with chronic PTSD and does not explain the substantial explicit memory impairment observed in Holocaust survivors with this disorder. Larger temporal lobe volumes may be associated with early traumatization and survival or may reflect some other characteristic of Holocaust survivors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Holocaust / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • National Socialism*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology*