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Duration of posttraumatic stress disorder predicts hippocampal grey matter loss

Felmingham, Kima c; Williams, Leanne M.a b; Whitford, Thomas J.a; Falconer, Erina c; Kemp, Andrew H.a; Peduto, Anthonyd; Bryant, Richard A.a c

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3283300fbc

To examine the impact of environmental stress on grey matter volume in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we investigated the relationship between duration of PTSD and grey matter volume of hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex. Twenty-one participants with PTSD and 17 trauma-exposed controls, matched for age and sex and with no history of substance dependence, underwent a T1-weighted structural MRI scan and voxel-based morphometry was employed. After controlling for age, depression and whole-brain volume, analysis of covariance revealed significant reductions in hippocampus and rostral anterior cingulate cortex in PTSD, and there was a significant negative correlation between right hippocampal volume and PTSD duration. This pattern suggests that prolonged PTSD may have cumulative adverse effects on hippocampal volume, highlighting the potential role of genetic–environmental interactions.

aBrain Dynamics Centre, Westmead Millennium Institute, Westmead Hospital

bPsychological Medicine, Western Clinical School, University of Sydney

cSchool of Psychology, University of New South Wales

dMRI Unit, Department of Radiology, Westmead Hospital, Australia

Correspondence to Kim L. Felmingham, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia

Tel: +61 2 9385 3245; fax: +61 2 9385 3641; e-mail:

Received 14 October 2008 accepted 24 June 2009

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.