Isotretinoin (13-cis-retinoic acid, or 13-cis-RA) (Accutane), approved by the FDA for the treatment of acne, carries a black box warning related to the risk of depression, suicide, and psychosis. Retinoic acid (RA), the active form of vitamin A, regulates gene expression in the brain, and isotretinoin is its 13-cis isomer. Retinoids represent a group of compounds derived from vitamin A that perform a large variety of functions in many systems, in particular the CNS, and abnormal retinoid levels can have neurological effects. Although infrequent, proper recognition and treatment of psychiatric side effects in acne patients is critical given the risk of death and disability. This paper reviews the evidence for a relationship between isotretinoin, depression and suicidality.
Evidence examined includes: 1) case reports; 2) temporal association between onset of depression and exposure to the drug; 3) challenge-rechallenge cases; 4) class effect (other compounds in the same class, like vitamin A, having similar neuropsychiatric effects); 5) dose response; and 6) biologically plausible mechanisms.
All papers in the literature related to isotretinoin, depression and suicide were reviewed, as well as papers related to class effect, dose response, and biological plausibility.
Information from individual articles in the literature was extracted.
The literature reviewed is consistent with an association between isotretinoin administration, depression and suicide in some individuals.
The relationship between isotretinoin and depression may have implications for a greater understanding of the neurobiology of affective disorders.
Preclinical studies show that stress is associated with changes in structure of the hippocampus, a brain area that plays a critical role in memory, inhibition of neurogenesis, and memory deficits. Studies in animals showed that both serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the epilepsy medication phenytoin (dilantin) block the effects of stress on the hippocampus. Imaging studies in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have found smaller volume of the hippocampus as measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with PTSD related to both combat and childhood abuse. These patients were also found to have deficits in memory on neuropsychological testing. Functional imaging studies using positron emission tomography (PET) found decreased hippocampal activation with memory tasks. In an initial study, we found that a year of treatment with paroxetine led to a 5% increase in hippocampal volume and a 35% increase in memory function. A second study showed that phenytoin was efficacious for symptoms of PTSD and led to a significant 6% increase in both right hippocampal and right whole brain volume, with no significant change in memory. These studies suggest that medications may counteract the effects of stress on the brain in patients with PTSD.
PTSD; hippocampus; pharmacotherapy; stress; neurogenesis; paroxetine; depression
Childhood trauma is an important public health problem, but there are limitations in our ability to measure childhood abuse. The purpose of this study was to develop a self-report instrument for the assessment of childhood trauma that is valid but simple to administer. A total of 288 subjects with and without trauma and psychiatric disorders were assessed with the Early Trauma Inventory– Self Report (ETI-SR), an instrument for the assessment of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as general traumas, which measures frequency, onset, emotional impact, and other variables. Validity and consistency of the ETI-SR using different methods of scoring was assessed. The ETI-SR was found to have good validity and internal consistency. No method was found to be superior to the simple method of counting the number of items endorsed as having ever occurred in terms of validity. Some items were found to be redundant or not necessary for the accurate measurement of trauma severity within specific domains. Subsequent analyses with a shortened checklist of items showed acceptable validity and internal consistency. These findings suggest that the ETI-SR is a valid measure of early trauma, and suggest future directions for a shortened version of the ETI-SR that could be more easily incorporated into clinical research studies and practice settings.
Depressive disorders; stress disorders; posttraumatic; psychometrics; measurement; abuse; trauma
Although early trauma (trauma in childhood) has been linked to adult inflammation and adult disease of inflammatory origin, it remains unknown whether this relationship is due to long-term consequences of early life stress or other familial factors.
We examined 482 male middle aged twins (241 pairs) born between 1946 and 1956 from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. Childhood traumatic experiences, before age 18, were measured retrospectively with the Early Trauma Inventory (ETI) and included physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and general trauma. Lifetime major depressive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder were assessed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM IV. Traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease were also assessed. Plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were measured to determine levels of inflammation. Mixed-effect regression models with a random intercept for pair were used to separate between and within twin pair effects.
When twins were analyzed as individuals, increasing levels of early trauma were positively related to CRP (p=0.03) but not IL-6 (p=0.12). When estimating within and between pair effects, only the between pair association of early trauma with the inflammatory markers remained significant.
The link between early trauma and inflammation is largely explained by familial factors shared by the twins, because levels of inflammation were highest when both twins were exposed to trauma. Exposure to early trauma may be a marker for an unhealthy familial environment. Clarification of familial factors associated with early stress and adult inflammation will be important to uncover correlates of stress and disease.
childhood maltreatment; Interleukin-6; C-reactive protein; stress; risk factor
In “Cognitive Processes in Dissociation: An Analysis of Core Theoretical Assumptions,” published in Psychological Bulletin, Giesbrecht, Lynn, Lilienfeld, and Merckelbach (2008) have challenged the widely accepted trauma theory of dissociation, which holds that dissociative symptoms are caused by traumatic stress. In doing so the authors outline a series of links between various constructs, such as fantasy proneness, cognitive failures, absorption, suggestibility, altered information-processing, dissociation, and amnesia, claiming that these linkages lead to the false conclusion that trauma causes dissociation. A review of the literature, however, shows that these are not necessarily related constructs. Careful examination of their arguments reveals no basis for the conclusion that there is no association between trauma and dissociation. The current comment offers a critical review and rebuttal of the argument of Giesbrecht et al. that there is no relationship between trauma and dissociation.
trauma; PTSD; dissociative disorders; dissociation; memory; absorption
Traumatic stress has a broad range of effects on the brain. Brain areas implicated in the stress response include the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Studies in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychiatric disorders related to stress have replicated findings in animal studies by finding alterations in these brain areas. Brain regions implicated in PTSD also play an important role in memory function, highlighting the important interplay between memory and the traumatic stress response. Abnormalities in these brain areas are hypothesized to underlie symptoms of PTSD and other stress-related psychiatric disorders.
Current models of affective disorders implicate alterations in norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and CRF/cortisol; however treatments targeted at these neurotransmitters or hormones have led to imperfect resolution of symptoms, suggesting that the neurobiology of affective disorders is incompletely understood. Until now retinoids have not been considered as possible contributors to affective disorders. Retinoids represent a family of compounds derived from Vitamin A that perform a large number of functions, many via the vitamin A product, retinoic acid. This signaling molecule binds to specific retinoic acid receptors in the brain which, like the glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone receptors, are part of the nuclear receptor superfamily and regulate gene transcription. Research in the field of retinoic acid in the CNS has focused on the developing brain, in part stimulated by the observation that isotretinoin (13-cis retinoic acid), an isomer of retinoic acid used in the treatment of acne, is highly teratogenic for the CNS. More recent work has suggested that retinoic acid may influence the adult brain; animal studies indicated that the administration of isotretinoin is associated with alterations in behavior as well as inhibition of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Clinical evidence for an association between retinoids and depression includes case reports in the literature, studies of health care databases, and other sources. A preliminary PET study in human subjects showed that isotretinoin was associated with a decrease in orbitofrontal metabolism. Several studies have shown that the molecular components required for retinoic acid signaling are expressed in the adult brain ; the overlap of brain areas implicated in retinoic acid function and stress and depression suggest that retinoids could play a role in affective disorders. This report reviews the evidence in this area and describes several systems that may be targets of retinoic acid and which contribute to the pathophysiology of depression.
Heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of autonomic function, has been associated with cognitive function, but studies are conflicting. Previous studies have also not controlled for familial and genetic influences.
We performed power spectral analysis on 24-hour ambulatory ECG’s in 416 middle-aged male twins from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. Memory and learning were measured by verbal and visual selective reminding tests (SRT). Mixed-effect regression models were used to calculate associations between and within twin pairs, while adjusting for covariates.
The mean age (SD) was 55 (2.9) years. A statistically significant positive association was found between measures of HRV and verbal, but not visual, SRT scores. The most statistically significant unadjusted association was found between very low frequency (VLF) HRV and verbal total recall SRT, such that each logarithm of increase in VLF was associated with an increased verbal SRT score of 4.85 points (p=0.002). The association persisted despite adjustment for demographic and cardiovascular risk factors, and after accounting for familial, and genetic factors by comparing twins within pairs. A significant interaction was found between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and HRV, such that total power and ultra low frequency were associated with SRT in twins (n=362) without PTSD, but not in those with PTSD.
In conclusion, lower frequency spectra of HRV are associated with verbal, but not visual, learning and memory, particularly in subjects without PTSD. This association may indicate that autonomic nervous system dysregulation plays a role in cognitive decline.
memory; autonomic function; heart rate variability; cognitive function
In asymptomatic smokers, coronary microcirculatory dysfunction, assessed by coronary flow reserve (CFR), is an early indicator of cardiovascular risk. Inflammation and oxidative stress may be the mechanisms through which smoking affects the microvasculature.
The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between smoking and CFR, taking into account potential shared genetic effects.
We examined 360 male middle aged twins (288 non-smokers and 72 smokers), including 46 twin pairs discordant for current smoking. Coronary flow reserve (CFR) in response to adenosine was measured with positron emission tomography [N13] ammonia and quantitation of coronary blood flow at rest and after adenosine stress. Inflammation was assessed by measuring interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, and oxidative stress was determined by measuring plasma hydroperoxides, glutathione (GSH), the oxidized form of GSH, GSSG, and the ratio of GSH to GSSG.
CFR was significantly lower in smokers compared to nonsmokers (2.25 vs. 2.75, p<0.01). This relationship persisted after accounting for known cardiovascular disease risk factors, and was marginally affected by adjusting for inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers. In addition, in smoking-discordant twin pairs, CFR in the smoking twin was significantly lower than in the non-smoking co-twin (2.25 vs. 2.67, p = 0.03) even after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors.
Our results demonstrate the adverse effects of smoking in the early phases of cardiovascular disease. Mechanisms other than peripherally-measured inflammation and oxidative stress are involved.
biomarkers; smoking; cardiovascular disease; oxidative stress; inflammation
To examine the relationship between inflammation and coronary microvascular function in asymptomatic individuals using positron emission tomography (PET) and assessment of coronary flow reserve (CFR).
Coronary microvascular dysfunction is an early precursor of coronary artery disease (CAD) thought to result from endothelial cell activation and inflammation, but data are limited.
We examined 268 asymptomatic male monozygotic and dizygotic twins. Plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial cell activation included C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), white blood cell count (WBC), vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1). Blood flow quantitation was obtained with [13N] ammonia PET at rest and after adenosine stress. CFR was measured as the ratio of maximum flow to baseline flow at rest; abnormal CFR was defined as a ratio <2.5. A summed stress score for visible perfusion defects was calculated.
In within-pair analyses, all biomarkers, except VCAM-1, were higher in twins with lower CFR than their brothers with higher CFR (p<0.05). This was observed in the entire sample, as well as within pairs discordant for a CFR of <2.5. Associations persisted after adjusting for summed stress score and CAD risk factors. In contrast no biomarker, except IL-6, was related to the summed stress score of visible defects.
Even in asymptomatic subjects, a decrease in coronary microvascular function is accompanied by a systemic inflammatory response, independent of CAD risk factors. Our results, using a controlled twin design, highlight the importance of coronary microvascular function in the early phases of CAD.
circulation; imaging; inflammation; coronary disease; endothelium
Studies in animals showed that stress is associated with changes in hippocampal function and structure, an effect mediated through decreased neurogenesis, increased glucocorticoids, and/or decreased brain derived neurotrophic factor. Antidepressants and some anticonvulsants block the effects of stress and/or promote neurogenesis in animal studies. Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been shown to have smaller hippocampal volume on magnetic resonance imaging and deficits in hippocampal-based memory. Symptom activation is associated with decreased anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal function, which is proposed as the neural correlate of a failure of extinction seen in these patients. Treatment with antidepressants and phenytoin reverse hippocampal volume reduction and memory deficits in PTSD patients, suggesting that these agents may promote neurogenesis in humans.
Memory for odors is often associated with highly emotional experiences, and odors have long been noted by clinicians to be precipitants of trauma symptoms in PTSD. Primitive brain systems involved in fear responsivity and survival also mediate smell, including the olfactory cortex and amygdala. The purpose of this study was to measure neural correlates of olfaction in PTSD.
We exposed male combat veterans with PTSD (N=8) and without PTSD (N=8) to a set of smells, including diesel (related to traumatic memories of combat), and three other types of smells: odorless air, vanilla/coconut and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) (resp. a neutral, positive, and negative hedonic non-traumatic smell) in conjunction with PET imaging of cerebral blood flow and assessment of psychophysiological and behavioral symptoms. All subjects also underwent a baseline of olfactory acuity.
PTSD patients rated diesel as unpleasant and distressing, resulting in increased PTSD symptoms and anxiety in PTSD versus combat controls. Exposure to diesel resulted in an increase in regional blood flow (rCBF) in amygdala, insula, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and decreased rCBF in lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) in PTSD in comparison to combat controls. Combat controls showed less rCBF changes on any smell, and did not show amygdala activation upon diesel exposure.
These data support the hypothesis that in PTSD trauma-related smells can serve as strong emotional reminders. The findings indicate the involvement of a neural circuitry that shares olfactory elements and memory processing regions when exposed to trauma-related stimuli.
PTSD; brain imaging techniques; olfaction; memory; amygdala
Multiple studies have documented deficits in verbal declarative memory function in depression that improve with resolution of symptoms; imaging studies show deficits in anterior cingulate function in depression, a brain area that mediates memory. No studies to date have examined neural correlates of emotionally valenced declarative memory using affectively negative (sad) verbal material that is clinically relevant to understanding depression. Also no studies have examined the effects of treatment on neural correlates of verbal declarative memory. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of treatment with antidepressants on verbal declarative memory in patients with depression.
Subjects with (N =18) and without (N=9) mid-life major depression underwent positron emission tomography (PET) imaging during verbal declarative memory tasks with both neutral paragraph encoding compared to a control condition, and emotional (sad) word pair retrieval compared to a control condition. Imaging was repeated in 13 subjects with depression after treatment with antidepressants.
Patients with untreated depression had a failure of anterior cingulate activation relative to controls during retrieval of emotional word pairs. Antidepressant treatment resulted in increased anterior cingulate function compared to the untreated baseline for both neutral and emotional declarative memory.
Limitations include a small sample size and variety of antidepressants used.
These results are consistent with alterations in anterior cingulate function that are reversible with treatment in patients with depression. These findings may have implications for understanding the mechanism of action of antidepressants in the treatment of depression.
PET; Memory; Depression; Cingulate; Frontal cortex
Smaller hippocampal volume has been reported in several stress-related psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder with early abuse, and depression with early abuse. Patients with borderline personality disorder and early abuse have also been found to have smaller amygdalar volume. The authors examined hippocampal and amygdalar volumes in patients with dissociative identity disorder, a disorder that has been associated with a history of severe childhood trauma.
The authors used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the volumes of the hippocampus and amygdala in 15 female patients with dissociative identity disorder and 23 female subjects without dissociative identity disorder or any other psychiatric disorder. The volumetric measurements for the two groups were compared.
Hippocampal volume was 19.2% smaller and amygdalar volume was 31.6% smaller in the patients with dissociative identity disorder, compared to the healthy subjects. The ratio of hippocampal volume to amygdalar volume was significantly different between groups.
The findings are consistent with the presence of smaller hippocampal and amygdalar volumes in patients with dissociative identity disorder, compared with healthy subjects.
Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and somatostatin both play important roles in mediating responses to acute and chronic stress. The purpose of this study was to measure CSF concentrations of CRF and somatostatin in patients with chronic combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and comparison subjects.
Lumbar punctures for collection of CSF were performed in Vietnam combat veterans with PTSD (N=11) and comparison subjects (N=17). CSF concentrations of CRF and somatostatin were compared between the two groups.
CSF concentrations of CRF were higher in the PTSD patients than in the comparison subjects (mean=29.0 pg/ml, SD=7.8, versus mean=21.9 pg/ml, SD=6.0). This group difference remained significant after covariance for age. CSF somatostatin concentrations in PTSD patients were higher than those of the comparison subjects (mean=19.9 pg/ml, SD=5.4, versus mean=13.7 pg/ml, SD=8.0). However, covarying for age reduced the level of significance.
Higher CSF CRF concentrations in patients with PTSD may reflect alterations in stress-related neurotransmitter systems. The higher CSF CRF concentrations may play a role in disturbances of arousal in patients with PTSD.
Acute stress responses of women are typically more reactive than that of men. Women, compared to men, may be more vulnerable to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whether there are differences between women and men with PTSD in levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, was investigated in a pilot study.
women (n=6) and men (n=3) motor vehicle accident (MVA) survivors, with PTSD, had saliva collected at 1400 h, 1800 h, and 2200 h. Cortisol levels in saliva were measured by radioimmunoassay. An interaction between gender and time of sample collection was observed due to women’s cortisol levels being lower and decreasing over time, whereas men’s levels were higher and increased across time of day of collection. Results of this pilot study suggest a difference in the pattern of disruption of glucocorticoid secretion among women and men with PTSD. Women had greater suppression of their basal cortisol levels than did men; however, the diurnal pattern for cortisol levels to decline throughout the day was observed among the women but not the men.
Cortisol; Glucocorticoid; PTSD; Motor vehicle accident; MVA; Gender
In the conditioned fear paradigm, repeated pairing of an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US) (e.g. electric shock) with a neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) (e.g. bright light) results in a conditioned fear response to the light alone. Animal studies have shown that the amygdala plays a critical role in acquisition of conditioned fear responses, while the medial prefrontal cortex (including anterior cingulate), through inhibition of amygdala responsiveness, has been hypothesized to play a role in extinction of fear responses. No studies have examined neural correlates of fear conditioning and extinction in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Women with early childhood sexual-abuse-related PTSD (n=8) and women without abuse or PTSD (n=11) underwent measurement of psychophysiological (skin conductance) responding as well as positron emission tomographic (PET) measurement of cerebral blood flow during habituation, acquisition and extinction conditions. During habituation subjects were repeatedly exposed to a blue square on a screen. During acquisition, exposure to the blue square (CS) was paired with an electric shock to the forearm (US). With extinction, subjects were again exposed to the blue squares without shock. On a different day subjects went through the same procedure with electric shocks administered randomly in the absence of the blue square.
Skin conductance responding to the CS was consistent with the development of conditioned responses with this paradigm. PTSD patients had increased left amygdala activation with fear acquisition, and decreased anterior cingulate function during extinction, relative to controls.
These findings implicate amygdala and anterior cingulate in the acquisition and extinction of fear responses, respectively, in PTSD.
Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) show a reliable increase in PTSD symptoms and physiological reactivity following exposure to traumatic pictures and sounds. In this study neural correlates of exposure to traumatic pictures and sounds were measured in PTSD.
Positron emission tomography and H2[15O] were used to measure cerebral blood flow during exposure to combat-related and neutral pictures and sounds in Vietnam combat veterans with and without PTSD.
Exposure to traumatic material in PTSD (but not non-PTSD) subjects resulted in a decrease in blood flow in medial prefrontal cortex (area 25), an area postulated to play a role in emotion through inhibition of amygdala responsiveness. Non-PTSD subjects activated anterior cingulate (area 24) to a greater degree than PTSD patients. There were also differences in cerebral blood flow response in areas involved in memory and visuospatial processing (and by extension response to threat), including posterior cingulate (area 23), precentral (motor) and inferior parietal cortex, and lingual gyrus. There was a pattern of increases in PTSD and decreases in non-PTSD subjects in these areas.
The findings suggest that functional alterations in specific cortical and subcortical brain areas involved in memory, visuospatial processing, and emotion underlie the symptoms of patients with PTSD.
Positron emission tomography; memory; postttraumatic stress disorder; frontal cortex; cingulate; function
Animal studies have shown that stress is associated with damage to the hippocampus, inhibition of neurogenesis, and deficits in hippocampal-based memory dysfunction. Studies in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found deficits in hippocampal-based declarative verbal memory and smaller hippocampal volume, as measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Recent preclinical evidence has shown that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors promote neurogenesis and reverse the effects of stress on hippocampal atrophy. This study assessed the effects of long-term treatment with paroxetine on hippocampal volume and declarative memory performance in PTSD.
Declarative memory was assessed with the Wechsler Memory Scale–Revised and Selective Reminding Test before and after 9–12 months of treatment with paroxetine in PTSD. Hippocampal volume was measured with MRI. Of the 28 patients who started the protocol, 23 completed the full course of treatment and neuropsychological testing. Twenty patients were able to complete MRI imaging.
Patients with PTSD showed a significant improvement in PTSD symptoms with treatment. Treatment resulted in significant improvements in verbal declarative memory and a 4.6% increase in mean hippocampal volume.
These findings suggest that long-term treatment with paroxetine is associated with improvement of verbal declarative memory deficits and an increase in hippocampal volume in PTSD.
Posttraumatic stress disorder; memory; hippocampus; stress; paroxetine; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
We previously used positron emission tomography (PET) measurement of brain metabolism with 18fluorodeoxyglucose to show that patients receiving selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) who have a tryptophan depletion–induced return of depressive symptoms have an acute decrease in metabolism in orbitofrontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and thalamus. Many patients with depression in remission while taking norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (NRIs) (but not SSRIs) experience a return of depressive symptoms with depletion of norepinephrine and dopamine using α-methylparatyrosine (AMPT).
To assess brain metabolic correlates of AMPT administration in patients with depression in remission while receiving NRIs.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Randomized, controlled, double-blind trial in which 18 patients recruited in 1997–2000 from the general community who had depression in remission while taking NRIs had PET imaging in a psychiatric research unit following AMPT and placebo administration.
After initial medication with desipramine and follow-up until response, patients underwent active AMPT (five 1-g doses administered orally over 28 hours) and placebo (diphenhydramine hydrochloride, five 50- mg doses administered similarly) catecholamine depletion challenges in randomized order of assignment, after which PET imaging was performed on day 3 of each condition. Both study conditions were performed 1 week apart.
Main Outcome Measures
Regional brain metabolism rates in patients with and without AMPT-induced return of depressive symptoms.
AMPT-induced return of depressive symptoms was experienced by 11 of the 18 patients and led to decreased brain metabolism in a number of cortical areas, with the greatest magnitude of effects in orbitofrontal (P=.002) and dorsolateral prefrontal (P=.03) cortex and thalamus (P=.006). Increased resting metabolism in prefrontal and limbic areas predicted vulnerability to return of depressive symptoms.
Different neurochemical systems that mediate depression may have effects on a common brain circuitry. Baseline metabolism in successfully treated depressed patients may predict vulnerability to future episodes of depression.
Studies in nonhuman primates suggest that high levels of cortisol associated with stress have neurotoxic effects on the hippocampus, a brain structure involved in memory. The authors previously showed that patients with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had deficits in short-term memory. The purpose of this study was to compare the hippocampal volume of patients with PTSD to that of subjects without psychiatric disorder.
Magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure the volume of the hippocampus in 26 Vietnam combat veterans with PTSD and 22 comparison subjects selected to be similar to the patients in age, sex, race, years of education, socioeconomic status, body size, and years of alcohol abuse.
The PTSD patients had a statistically significant 8% smaller right hippocampal volume relative to that of the comparison subjects, but there was no difference in the volume of other brain regions (caudate and temporal lobe). Deficits in short-term verbal memory as measured with the Wechsler Memory Scale were associated with smaller right hippocampal volume in the PTSD patients only.
These findings are consistent with a smaller right hippocampal volume in PTSD that is associated with functional deficits in verbal memory.
Neuroimaging has become one of the most important methods in the investigation of the neurobiological underpinnings of borderline personality disorder. Structural and functional imaging studies have revealed dysfunction in different brain regions which seem to contribute to borderline symptomatology. This review presents relevant studies using different methodologies: volumetry of limbic and prefrontal regions, investigations of brain metabolism under resting conditions, studies of serotonergic neurotransmission, and challenge studies using emotional, stressful, and sensory stimuli. Dysfunction in a frontolimbic network is suggested to mediate much, if not all of the borderline symptomatology.
Neuroimaging; Borderline personality disorder; Prefrontal cortex; Amygdala
Prescription drugs are one of the fastest growing healthcare costs in the United States. However, the long-term influence of child abuse and related traumatic stressors on prescriptions for psychotropic medications in adults has not been described. This study assessed the relationship of eight adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to rates of prescriptions for psychotropic medications throughout adulthood. These ACEs included: abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), witnessing domestic violence, growing up with substance abusing, mentally ill, or criminal household members, and parental separation/ divorce.
Data about ACEs were collected between 1995 and 1997 from adult health maintenance organization patients; prescription data were available from 1997 to 2004. The number of ACEs (ACE Score: maximum 8) was used as a measure of cumulative traumatic stress during childhood. The relationship of the score to rates of prescribed psychotropic drugs was prospectively assessed among 15,033 adult patients eligible for the follow-up phase of the study (mean follow-up: 6.1 years). Data were analyzed in 2006. Multivariate models were adjusted for age, race, gender, and education.
Prescription rates increased yearly during the follow-up and in a graded fashion as the ACE Score increased (p for trend <0.001). After adjusting compared with persons with an ACE Score of 0, persons with a score of equal to or more than 5 had a nearly threefold increase in rates of psychotropic prescriptions. Graded relationships were observed between the score and prescription rates for antidepressant, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and mood-stabilizing/bipolar medications; rates for persons with a score of equal to or more than 5 for these classes of drugs increased 3-, 2-, 10-, and 17-fold, respectively.
The strong relationship of the ACE Score to increased utilization of psychotropic medications underscores the contribution of childhood experience to the burden of adult mental illness. Moreover, the huge economic costs associated with the use of psychotropic medications provide additional incentive to address the high prevalence and consequences of childhood traumatic stressors.
Improved diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are needed for our military and veterans, their families, and society at large. Advances in brain imaging offer important biomarkers of structural, functional, and metabolic information concerning the brain. This article reviews the application of various imaging techniques to the clinical problems of TBI and PTSD. For TBI, we focus on findings and advances in neuroimaging that hold promise for better detection, characterization, and monitoring of objective brain changes in symptomatic patients with combat-related, closed-head brain injuries not readily apparent by standard computed tomography or conventional magnetic resonance imaging techniques.
diagnosis; diffusion tensor imaging; fMRI; neuroimaging; OIF/OEF; posttraumatic stress disorder; PTSD; TBI; traumatic brain injury; veterans