Neuroanatomical Risk Factors for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Recent Trauma Survivors Academic Article uri icon


  • Background

    Low hippocampal volume could serve as an early risk factor for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in interaction with other brain anomalies of developmental origin. One such anomaly may well be a presence of large Cavum Septum Pellucidum (CSP), which has been loosely associated with PTSD. Here, we performed a longitudinal prospective study of recent trauma survivors. We hypothesized that at one-month after trauma exposure, the relation between hippocampal volume and PTSD symptom severity will be moderated by CSP volume, and that this early interaction will account for persistent PTSD symptoms at subsequent time-points.


    171 adults (87 females, average age=34.22, range=18-65) admitted to a general hospital’s emergency department following a traumatic event, underwent clinical assessment and structural MRI within one-month after trauma. Follow-up clinical evaluations were conducted at six (n=97) and fourteen (n=78) months after trauma. Hippocampus and CSP volumes were measured automatically by FreeSurfer software and verified manually by a neuroradiologist.


    At one-month following trauma, CSP volume significantly moderated the relation between hippocampal volume and PTSD severity (p=0.026), and this interaction further predicted symptom severity at fourteen months post-trauma (p=0.018). Specifically, individuals with smaller hippocampus and larger CSP at one-month post-trauma, showed more severe symptoms at one-and fourteen months following trauma exposure.


    Our study provides evidence for an early neuroanatomical risk factors for PTSD, which could also predict the progression of the disorder in the year following trauma exposure. Such a simple-to-acquire neuroanatomical signature for PTSD could guide early management, as well as long-term monitoring.

    Trial Registration

    Neurobehavioral Moderators of Post-traumatic Disease Trajectories. registration: NCT03756545 .

author list (cited authors)

  • Ben-Zion, Z., Artzi, M., Niry, D., Keynan, N. J., Zeevi, Y., Admon, R., ... Hendler, T.

publication date

  • January 1, 2020 11:11 AM