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Brain imaging predicts post-traumatic stress disorder after brain injury

Researchers have discovered potential biomarkers of post-traumatic stress disorder in people with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Editor: Akhmetova Aigerim

Author: Bolysbek Dana



Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental disorder caused by physical or psychological trauma. How its symptoms arise remains unclear and unpredictable. Good diagnostic methods are needed to improve treatment and outcomes.


In this experiment, the researchers used data from TRACK-TBI, a large longitudinal study of patients admitted to the emergency department with TBI severe enough to warrant a CT scan.


Researchers followed more than 400 of these TBI patients, evaluating them for PTSD 3 and 6 months after the brain injury. After 3 months, 77 participants, or 18 percent, had probable post-traumatic stress disorder. Also after 6 months, 70 participants, or 16 percent, had PAD. After injury, all subjects underwent brain imaging.


MRI studies conducted within two weeks of injury were used to measure the volumes of key brain structures thought to be involved in PTSD.


In particular, lower volume in areas of the brain called the cingulate cortex, superior frontal cortex, and insula predicted PTSD at 3 months. Areas associated with arousal, attention, and emotional regulation.


The findings are consistent with previous studies showing less volume in some of these brain regions in people with PTSD, and studies suggesting that reduced volume of the cerebral cortex may be a risk factor for PTSD. Taken together, the results indicate that "brain reserve" or higher volumes of the cerebral cortex may provide some resistance to post-traumatic stress.


While the biomarker for brain volume differences is not yet robust enough to serve as clinical guidance, Dr. Stein said "it paves the way for future research that will further explore how these brain regions can contribute to mental health problems such as PTSD." ...