Background: The results of previous studies suggest structural brain differences in pediatric maltreatment-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) However, posterior fossa volumes were not examined, despite the consensus that the cerebellum is important in emotional and cognitive development. We investigated the relationship between structural volumes of the cerebellum hemispheres, vermis, brainstem, and clinical variables in pediatric maltreatment-related PTSD.
Methods: Fifty-eight psychotropic-naïve maltreated children and adolescents with DSM-IV PTSD were compared with two groups of pediatric subjects who had no DSM-IV criteria A trauma histories: 1) 13 with pediatric generalized anxiety disorder, and 2) 98 healthy non-abused children and adolescents. Subjects underwent a comprehensive psychiatric assessment and an anatomical magnetic resonance image brain scan.
Results: Unadjusted means of the left, right, and total cerebellum were smaller in the PTSD group. The group differences remained significant in the left cerebellum, right cerebellum, and total cerebellum in the analyses adjusted for cerebral volume, sociodemographic, and IQ variables. Cerebellar volumes positively correlated with age of onset of the trauma that lead to PTSD and negatively correlated with the duration of the trauma that lead to PTSD. Cerebellar volumes were larger in boys versus girls, but there was no group x gender interaction. There were significant positive correlations between IQ measures and volumetric variables.
Conclusions: The results support cerebellar volume differences in maltreated children and adolescents with PTSD. Further studies are warranted.