Psychic trauma causing grossly reduced brain metabolism and cognitive deterioration

Neuropsychologia. 1998 Jan;36(1):77-82. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(97)00093-6.


While amnesia and other cognitive disturbances are usually caused by structural brain damage, there are a few instances in which environmental stress may induce neuronal death in memory-sensitive brain regions such as the hippocampus. Here we report on a patient who, after a single brief exposure to an event reminding him of a similar stressful event from his childhood, deteriorated immediately and persistently without manifesting structural, but manifesting functional, brain damage as measured by position emission tomography. This patient probably represents the first case in which a direct relation between a single psychic event and the occurrence of brain malfunctioning in cognition is documented by dynamic neuroimaging methods. Psychic shock may cause lasting reductions in brain metabolism with the consequence of severe intellectual malfunctioning.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amnesia / physiopathology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed