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The structural changes recent-onset posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) subjects were rarely investigated. This study was to compare temporal and causal relationships of structural changes in recent-onset PTSD with trauma-exposed control (TEC) subjects and non-TEC subjects.
T1-weighted magnetic resonance images of 27 PTSD, 33 TEC and 30 age- and sex-matched healthy control (HC) subjects were studied. The causal network of structural covariance was used to evaluate the causal relationships of structural changes in PTSD patients.
Volumes of bilateral hippocampal and left lingual gyrus were significantly smaller in PTSD patients and TEC subjects than HC subjects. As symptom scores increase, reduction in gray matter volume began in the hippocampus and progressed to the frontal lobe, then to the temporal and occipital cortices (p < 0.05, false discovery rate corrected). The hippocampus might be the primary hub of the directional network and demonstrated positive causal effects on the frontal, temporal and occipital regions (p < 0.05, false discovery rate corrected). The frontal regions, which were identified to be transitional points, projected causal effects to the occipital lobe and temporal regions and received causal effects from the hippocampus (p < 0.05, false discovery rate corrected).
The results offer evidence of localized abnormalities in the bilateral hippocampus and remote abnormalities in multiple temporal and frontal regions in typhoon-exposed PTSD patients.
Losing one's only child is a major traumatic life event that may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, the underlying mechanisms of its psychological consequences remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated subregional hippocampal functional connectivity (FC) networks based on resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and the deoxyribonucleic acid methylation of the human glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) in adults who had lost their only child.
A total of 144 Han Chinese adults who had lost their only child (51 adults with PTSD and 93 non-PTSD adults [trauma-exposed controls]) and 50 controls without trauma exposure were included in this fMRI study (age: 40–67 years). FCs between hippocampal subdivisions (four regions in each hemisphere: cornu ammonis1 [CA1], CA2, CA3, and dentate gyrus [DG]) and methylation levels of the NR3C1 gene were compared among the three groups.
Trauma-exposed adults, regardless of PTSD diagnosis, had weaker positive FC between the left hippocampal CA1, left DG, and the posterior cingulate cortex, and weaker negative FC between the right CA1, right DG, and several frontal gyri, relative to healthy controls. Compared to non-PTSD adults, PTSD adults showed decreased negative FC between the right CA1 region and the right middle/inferior frontal gyri (MFG/IFG), and decreased negative FC between the right DG and the right superior frontal gyrus and left MFG. Both trauma-exposed groups showed lower methylation levels of the NR3C1 gene.
Adults who had lost their only child may experience disrupted hippocampal network connectivity and NR3C1 methylation status, regardless of whether they have developed PTSD.
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