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Brain imaging predicts PTSD after brain injury


A research team at the University of California, San Diego, studied 400+ patients with traumatic brain injury and their experience with PTSD. They discovered that smaller brain volumes in the insula, superior frontal cortex, rostral and caudal cingulate can predict the probability of PTSD in TBI patients. This result should be further investigated and applied as a new biomarker to test the risk of PTSD. 


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

PTSD is a mental health issue, in which a person with a traumatic past can be triggered by experiencing similar events. Clinically diagnosed PTSD usually lasts for months and greatly interferes with one’s daily life. Common symptoms include distressing flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of triggering cues, negative thoughts and emotion. 


Cingulate Cortex 

Cingulate Cortex is located in the medial proportion of the hemisphere, close to the midline. It is associated with sensation and emotional response to negative stimuli. Studies have suggested that patients with PTSD will have a smaller cingulate cortex. 


The team used data collected in TRACK-TBI (Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in TBI) from 421 participants. Brain volumes were collected using MRI scans after 2 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after the injury while statistical analysis was performed. 



After 3 months, about 18.3% of patients have probable PTSD. After 6 months, about 16.6% of patients developed probable PTSD. Most importantly, the smaller volume in the insula, superior frontal cortex, and rostral and caudal cingulate can account for 73.8% of the prediction of PTSD. 



This study replicated the previous research that smaller brain volumes in specific areas correlate with the development of PTSD after TBI. Taking advantage of this research, prognosis of high-risk patients can be improved and the prevention of PTSD can be enhanced. However, further investigation is needed to enhance the accuracy of this new biomarker test. 



Brain imaging predicts PTSD after brain injury. (2020, December 29). Retrieved from

Cingulate Cortex. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kitayama, N., Quinn, S., & Bremner, J. D. (2006, February). Smaller volume of anterior cingulate cortex in abuse-related posttraumatic stress disorder. Retrieved from

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (2018, July 06). Retrieved from

Stein, M. B., Yuh, E., Jain, S., Okonkwo, D. O., Donald, C. L., Levin, H., . . . Zafonte, R. (2020, October 27). Smaller Regional Brain Volumes Predict Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at 3 Months After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Retrieved from

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Resources by Cassie Wang

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