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Am J Psychiatry. 2003 May;160(5):924-32.

MRI and PET study of deficits in hippocampal structure and function in women with childhood sexual abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit, Emory University School of Medicine, 1256 Briarcliff Road, Atlanta, GA 30306, USA.



Animal studies have suggested that early stress is associated with alterations in the hippocampus, a brain area that plays a critical role in learning and memory. The purpose of this study was to measure both hippocampal structure and function in women with and without early childhood sexual abuse and the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Thirty-three women participated in this study, including women with early childhood sexual abuse and PTSD (N=10), women with abuse without PTSD (N=12), and women without abuse or PTSD (N=11). Hippocampal volume was measured with magnetic resonance imaging in all subjects, and hippocampal function during the performance of hippocampal-based verbal declarative memory tasks was measured by using positron emission tomography in abused women with and without PTSD.


A failure of hippocampal activation and 16% smaller volume of the hippocampus were seen in women with abuse and PTSD compared to women with abuse without PTSD. Women with abuse and PTSD had a 19% smaller hippocampal volume relative to women without abuse or PTSD.


These results are consistent with deficits in hippocampal function and structure in abuse-related PTSD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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