Introduction: In recent years, research on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) focused on the description of different biological correlates of illness. Morphological changes of different brain regions were involved in PTSD neurophysiopathology, being related to trauma or considered a resilience biomarker. In this meta-analysis, we aimed to investigate the grey matter changes reported in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies on patients who have developed PTSD compared to exposed subjects who did not show a clinical PTSD onset.
Methods: We meta-analysed eight peer-reviewed MRI studies conducted on trauma-exposed patients and reported results corrected for false positives. We then conducted global and intergroup comparisons from neuroimaging data of two cohorts of included subjects. The included studies were conducted on 250 subjects, including 122 patients with PTSD and 128 non-PTSD subjects exposed to trauma.
Results: Applying a family-wise error correction, PTSD subjects compared to trauma-exposed non-PTSD individuals showed a significant volume reduction of a large left-sided grey matter cluster extended from the parahippocampal gyrus to the uncus, including the amygdala.
Conclusions: These volumetric reductions are a major structural correlate of PTSD and can be related to the expression of symptoms. Future studies might consider these and other neural PTSD correlates, which may lead to the development of clinical applications for affected patients.
Keywords: Amygdala; Hippocampus; Magnetic resonance imaging; Morphometry; Posttraumatic stress disorder.
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