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Psychological trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been associated with advanced epigenetic age. However, whether epigenetic aging measured at the time of trauma predicts the subsequent development of PTSD outcomes is unknown. Moreover, the neural substrates underlying posttraumatic outcomes associated with epigenetic aging are unclear.
We examined a multi-ancestry cohort of women and men (n = 289) who presented to the emergency department (ED) after trauma. Blood DNA was collected at ED presentation, and EPIC DNA methylation arrays were used to assess four widely used metrics of epigenetic aging (HorvathAge, HannumAge, PhenoAge, and GrimAge). PTSD symptoms were evaluated longitudinally at the time of ED presentation and over the ensuing 6 months. Structural and functional neuroimaging was performed 2 weeks after trauma.
After covariate adjustment and correction for multiple comparisons, advanced ED GrimAge predicted increased risk for 6-month probable PTSD diagnosis. Secondary analyses suggested that the prediction of PTSD by GrimAge was driven by worse trajectories for intrusive memories and nightmares. Advanced ED GrimAge was also associated with reduced volume of the whole amygdala and specific amygdala subregions, including the cortico-amygdaloid transition and the cortical and accessory basal nuclei.
Our findings shed new light on the relation between biological aging and trauma-related phenotypes, suggesting that GrimAge measured at the time of trauma predicts PTSD trajectories and is associated with relevant brain alterations. Furthering these findings has the potential to enhance early prevention and treatment of posttraumatic psychiatric sequelae.
Posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are common following traumatic stress exposure (TSE). Identification of individuals with PTSS risk in the early aftermath of TSE is important to enable targeted administration of preventive interventions. In this study, we used baseline survey data from two prospective cohort studies to identify the most influential predictors of substantial PTSS.
Self-identifying black and white American women and men (n = 1546) presenting to one of 16 emergency departments (EDs) within 24 h of motor vehicle collision (MVC) TSE were enrolled. Individuals with substantial PTSS (⩾33, Impact of Events Scale – Revised) 6 months after MVC were identified via follow-up questionnaire. Sociodemographic, pain, general health, event, and psychological/cognitive characteristics were collected in the ED and used in prediction modeling. Ensemble learning methods and Monte Carlo cross-validation were used for feature selection and to determine prediction accuracy. External validation was performed on a hold-out sample (30% of total sample).
Twenty-five percent (n = 394) of individuals reported PTSS 6 months following MVC. Regularized linear regression was the top performing learning method. The top 30 factors together showed good reliability in predicting PTSS in the external sample (Area under the curve = 0.79 ± 0.002). Top predictors included acute pain severity, recovery expectations, socioeconomic status, self-reported race, and psychological symptoms.
These analyses add to a growing literature indicating that influential predictors of PTSS can be identified and risk for future PTSS estimated from characteristics easily available/assessable at the time of ED presentation following TSE.
This is the first report on the association between trauma exposure and depression from the Advancing Understanding of RecOvery afteR traumA(AURORA) multisite longitudinal study of adverse post-traumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae (APNS) among participants seeking emergency department (ED) treatment in the aftermath of a traumatic life experience.
We focus on participants presenting at EDs after a motor vehicle collision (MVC), which characterizes most AURORA participants, and examine associations of participant socio-demographics and MVC characteristics with 8-week depression as mediated through peritraumatic symptoms and 2-week depression.
Eight-week depression prevalence was relatively high (27.8%) and associated with several MVC characteristics (being passenger v. driver; injuries to other people). Peritraumatic distress was associated with 2-week but not 8-week depression. Most of these associations held when controlling for peritraumatic symptoms and, to a lesser degree, depressive symptoms at 2-weeks post-trauma.
These observations, coupled with substantial variation in the relative strength of the mediating pathways across predictors, raises the possibility of diverse and potentially complex underlying biological and psychological processes that remain to be elucidated in more in-depth analyses of the rich and evolving AURORA database to find new targets for intervention and new tools for risk-based stratification following trauma exposure.
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