Evidence of diffuse damage in frontal and occipital cortex in the brain of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder

Neurol Sci. 2012 Feb;33(1):59-68. doi: 10.1007/s10072-011-0659-4. Epub 2011 Jun 28.


A number of MRI studies have shown focal or diffuse cortical gray matter (GM) abnormalities in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the results of these studies are unclear regarding the cortical regions involved in this condition, perhaps due to the heterogeneity of the PTSD population included or to the differences in the methodology used for the quantification of the brain structures. In this study, we assessed differences in cortical GM volumes between a selected group of 25 drug-naive PTSD patients with history of adulthood trauma and 25 matched non-traumatized controls. Analyses were performed by using two different automated methods: the structural image evaluation using normalization of atrophy (SIENAX) and the voxel-based morphometry (VBM), as we trusted that if these complementary techniques provided similar results, it would increase the confidence in the validity of the assessment. Results of SIENAX and VBM analyses similarly showed that cortical GM volume decreases in PTSD patients when compared to healthy controls, particularly in the frontal and occipital lobes. These decreases seem to correlate with clinical measures. Our findings suggest that in drug-naïve PTSD patients with a history of adulthood trauma, brain structural damage is diffuse, with a particular prevalence for the frontal and occipital lobes, and is clinically relevant.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occipital Lobe / pathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / pathology*