Preliminary Evidence of Increased Hippocampal Myelin Content in Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Front Behav Neurosci. 2015 Dec 2;9:333. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00333. eCollection 2015.


Recent findings suggest the formation of myelin in the central nervous system by oligodendrocytes is a continuous process that can be modified with experience. For example, a recent study showed that immobilization stress increased oligodendrogensis in the dentate gyrus of adult rat hippocampus. Because changes in myelination represents an adaptive form of brain plasticity that has a greater reach in the adult brain than other forms of plasticity (e.g., neurogenesis), the objective of this "proof of concept" study was to examine whether there are differences in myelination in the hippocampi of humans with and without post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We used the ratio of T1-weighted/T2-weighted magnetic resonance image (MRI) intensity to estimate the degree of hippocampal myelination in 19 male veterans with PTSD and 19 matched trauma-exposed male veterans without PTSD (mean age: 43 ± 12 years). We found that veterans with PTSD had significantly more hippocampal myelin than trauma-exposed controls. There was also found a positive correlation between estimates of hippocampal myelination and PTSD and depressive symptom severity. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine hippocampal myelination in humans with PTSD. These results provide preliminary evidence for stress-induced hippocampal myelin formation as a potential mechanism underlying the brain abnormalities associated with vulnerability to stress.

Keywords: hippocampus; imaging; myelin; plasticity; post-traumatic stress disorder.