Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hippocampal volume and resilience in posttramatic stress disorder

Date:
March 23, 2011
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
The hippocampus, a brain region implicated in memory and interpreting environmental contexts, has been the focus of a controversy in post-traumatic stress disorder. A new study has found that larger hippocampal volume is associated with recovery of PTSD.

The hippocampus, a brain region implicated in memory and interpreting environmental contexts, has been the focus of a controversy in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Related Articles


Early MRI studies suggested that the volume of the hippocampus was reduced in some people with chronic PTSD. This observation was interpreted as suggesting that stress produced atrophy within the hippocampus, consistent with a body of research conducted in animals. Supporting this hypothesis, it appears that the same region of the hippocampus that is most-sensitive to stress effects in animals, the CA3 region, may show the greatest volume reductions in people with PTSD.

More recently, the non-traumatized identical twins of people with PTSD were shown to have smaller hippocampal volumes, suggesting that a small hippocampus might be a risk factor for PTSD. This hypothesis relates to the role that the hippocampus plays in drawing inferences about one's environmental context, such as evaluating the safety of the environment. The hippocampus also provides some inhibitory control of hypothalamic centers that control the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Now, a new study in Biological Psychiatry has found that larger hippocampal volume is associated with recovery of PTSD. Brigitte Apfel and colleagues used structural magnetic resonance imaging to study hippocampal volume in Gulf War veterans who recovered from PTSD in comparison to veterans with chronic PTSD and to control participants who never had PTSD. They found that recovered veterans had, on average, larger hippocampal volumes than those with chronic PTSD and similar volumes compared to the control participants.

"These results need to be interpreted with caution because we did not measure brain changes over time. However, the finding suggests that hippocampal damage in PTSD is reversible once the symptoms remit," explained Dr. Apfel. "If our finding can be confirmed, it might suggest that treatment of PTSD could be viewed as brain restoration rather than primarily a way to ease symptoms."

Does this finding help to resolve the conundrum of whether the hippocampus is a target of stress or a contributor to stress response?

This finding would appear to support the hypothesis that a small hippocampus is a risk factor for the persistence of PTSD, because people with larger hippocampi seemed better able to recover. This finding may be consistent with the observation that some gene variants associated with emotional resilience in response to stress are also associated with larger hippocampal volume. Alternatively, it is possible that smaller hippocampi reflect early life stress or other environmental factors that compromise resilience in adulthood.

A major remaining question is whether treatment-related increases in hippocampal volume mediate aspects of the therapeutic responses to PTSD treatments. A prior study reported that six months of antidepressant treatment increased hippocampal volume in people with PTSD.

"It may be time to view hippocampal volume as both a modulator of stress resilience and as a target for the negative impact of stress and the positive effects of treatments," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "This more complex view might explain how the negative effects of stress "feed forward" to worsen outcomes in the face of subsequent stressors, while treatments would similarly cumulatively promote resilience."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brigitte A. Apfel, Jessica Ross, Jennifer Hlavin, Dieter J. Meyerhoff, Thomas J. Metzler, Charles R. Marmar, Michael W. Weiner, Norbert Schuff, Thomas C. Neylan. Hippocampal Volume Differences in Gulf War Veterans with Current Versus Lifetime Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Biological Psychiatry, 2011; 69 (6): 541 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.09.044

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "Hippocampal volume and resilience in posttramatic stress disorder." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105257.htm>.
Elsevier. (2011, March 23). Hippocampal volume and resilience in posttramatic stress disorder. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105257.htm
Elsevier. "Hippocampal volume and resilience in posttramatic stress disorder." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105257.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins