Background: Smaller hippocampal volume is associated with more severe posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms years after traumatic experiences. Posttraumatic stress symptoms appear early following trauma, but the relationship between hippocampal volume and PTSD symptom severity during early posttrauma periods is not well understood. It is possible that the inverse relationship between hippocampal volume and PTSD symptom severity is already present soon after trauma. To test this possibility, we prospectively examined the association between hippocampal volumes and severity of PTSD symptoms within weeks to months after trauma due to a motor vehicle collision.
Methods: Structural magnetic resonance imaging scans of 44 survivors were collected about 2 weeks and again at 3 months after a motor vehicle collision to measure hippocampal volumes. The PTSD Checklist was used to evaluate PTSD symptoms at each scan time. Full (n = 5) or partial (n = 6) PTSD was evaluated using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale at 3 months.
Results: Left hippocampal volumes at both time points negatively correlated with PTSD Checklist scores, and with subscores for re-experiencing symptoms at 3 months. Left hippocampal volumes at 3 months also negatively correlated with hyperarousal symptoms at 3 months. Finally, neither left nor right hippocampal volumes significantly changed between 2 weeks and 3 months posttrauma.
Conclusions: The results suggest that small hippocampal volume at early posttrauma weeks is associated with increased risk for PTSD development. Furthermore, the inverse relationship between hippocampal volume and PTSD symptoms at 3 months did not arise from posttrauma shifts in hippocampal volume between 2 weeks and 3 months after trauma.
Keywords: Acute trauma; Longitudinal; Motor vehicle collision; PCL; Re-experiencing; Structural MRI.
Copyright © 2017 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.