Associations among civilian mild traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness, posttraumatic stress disorder symptom trajectories, and structural brain volumetric data

J Trauma Stress. 2022 Oct;35(5):1521-1534. doi: 10.1002/jts.22858. Epub 2022 Jul 1.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is prevalent and associated with significant morbidity. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) concurrent with psychiatric trauma may be associated with PTSD. Prior studies of PTSD-related structural brain alterations have focused on military populations. The current study examined correlations between PTSD, acute mTBI, and structural brain alterations longitudinally in civilian patients (N = 504) who experienced a recent Criterion A traumatic event. Participants who reported loss of consciousness (LOC) were characterized as having mTBI; all others were included in the control group. PTSD symptoms were assessed at enrollment and over the following year; a subset of participants (n = 89) underwent volumetric brain MRI (M = 53 days posttrauma). Classes of PTSD symptom trajectories were modeled using latent growth mixture modeling. Associations between PTSD symptom trajectories and cortical thicknesses or subcortical volumes were assessed using a moderator-based regression. mTBI with LOC during trauma was positively correlated with the likelihood of developing a chronic PTSD symptom trajectory. mTBI showed significant interactions with cortical thickness in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) in predicting PTSD symptoms, r = .461-.463. Bilateral rACC thickness positively predicted PTSD symptoms but only among participants who endorsed LOC, p < .001. The results demonstrate positive correlations between mTBI with LOC and PTSD symptom trajectories, and findings related to mTBI with LOC and rACC thickness interactions in predicting subsequent chronic PTSD symptoms suggest the importance of further understanding the role of mTBI in the context of PTSD to inform intervention and risk stratification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Concussion* / complications
  • Brain Concussion* / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Concussion* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel* / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / complications
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • Unconsciousness / diagnostic imaging
  • Unconsciousness / etiology
  • Unconsciousness / psychology