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Psychother Psychosom. 2006;75(2):122-32.

Morphometric and psychometric comparisons between non-substance-abusing patients with posttraumatic stress disorder and normal controls.

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Karolinska Institute, and National Institute for Psychosocial Medicine, Stockholm, Sweden.



Hippocampal decrease in size in response to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is still a subject of controversy. The aims of this study were to: (1) confirm previous hippocampus findings in PTSD patients compared to controls, using ethnically similar study groups where alcohol and drug abuse were non-existent; (2) test influence of disease duration as well as depression scores on possible morphological changes; (3) test whether the voxel-based morphometry (VBM) data confirm the group differences seen in the region of interest (ROI) analysis, and (4) test the associations between the cognitive test scores and the morphological changes.


VBM and ROI-based analysis were applied in 23 patients and 17 healthy controls. Culture-neutral cognitive tests were used.


The ROI-based method showed significantly decreased gray matter volumes for global hippocampal volume, as in a separate analysis of left and right sides in the PTSD group. Total volume of the hippocampus was significantly decreased on the left side, as in the global assessment. A multiple regression VBM model showed significant voxel clusters for group affiliation in the right hippocampus, modelling lowering of gray matter associated with the PTSD group. Disease duration was shown to be negatively correlated to bilateral hippocampal volume and high depression score to bilateral gray matter parahippocampal volume. No significant correlations were found between hippocampal or parahippocampal volumes and cognitive functions.


The present and previous studies showed that morphologic differences do not appear to be due to drug or alcohol abuse. The VBM data partially confirm the group differences seen in the ROI-based method in the medial temporal lobe. The fact that the significantly lower score on the short-term memory test in the PTSD group is not correlated to hippocampal volume may suggest a more general basis for such memory impairment.

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