Anatomical deficits in adult posttraumatic stress disorder: a meta-analysis of voxel-based morphometry studies

Behav Brain Res. 2014 Aug 15;270:307-15. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.021. Epub 2014 May 23.


Evidence from previous anatomical studies indicate that widespread brain regions are involved in the pathogenesis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The aim of the present study was to quantitatively integrate the literature on structural abnormalities seen on individuals with PTSD. Twenty voxel-based analysis studies were analysed through a comprehensive series of meta-analyses. Compared with healthy controls, PTSD patients showed a significant reduction in grey matter (GM) in the left anterior cingulate gyrus (ACC) at the whole-brain level. Several brain regions, including the left ACC, the left insula and the right parahippocampal gyrus were significantly smaller in individuals with PTSD than in trauma-exposed healthy subjects. Furthermore, the clinician-administered PTSD scale scores were negatively correlated with GM in the left ACC and positively correlated with GM in the left insula. In addition, PTSD patients who experienced accidental or non-accidental trauma had anatomical changes in different brain regions. These results suggest that the smaller ACC and insular cortex within the limbic-prefrontal circuit contribute to the pathogenesis of PTSD. Moreover, the PTSD patients with different types of trauma may have different cerebral deficits.

Keywords: Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC); Disaster type; Insular cortex; Meta-analyses; Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / pathology*