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PTSD, DTI, trauma, white matter, brain structure


Background: Little is known about what distinguishes those who are resilient after trauma from those at risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous work indicates white matter integrity may be a useful biomarker in predicting PTSD. Research has shown changes in the integrity of three white matter tracts—the cingulum bundle, corpus callosum (CC), and uncinate fasciculus (UNC)—in the aftermath of trauma relate to PTSD symptoms. However, few have examined the predictive utility of white matter integrity in the acute aftermath of trauma to predict prospective PTSD symptom severity in a mixed traumatic injury sample.

Method: Thus, the current study investigated acute brain structural integrity in 148 individuals being treated for traumatic injuries in the Emergency Department of a Level 1 trauma center. Participants underwent diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging 2 weeks post-trauma and completed several self-report measures at 2-weeks (T1) and 6 months (T2), including the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-V (CAPS-5), post-injury.

Results: Consistent with previous work, T1 lesser anterior cingulum fractional anisotropy (FA) was marginally related to greater T2 total PTSD symptoms. No other white matter tracts were related to PTSD symptoms.

Conclusions: Results demonstrate that in a traumatically injured sample with predominantly subclinical PTSD symptoms at T2, acute white matter integrity after trauma is not robustly related to the development of chronic PTSD symptoms. These findings suggest the timing of evaluating white matter integrity and PTSD is important as white matter differences may not be apparent in the acute period after injury.

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