Impact of acute stress on human brain microstructure: An MR diffusion study of earthquake survivors

Authors

  • Long Chen,

    1. Department of Radiology, Huaxi MR Research Center (HMRRC), Center for Diagnostic Imaging, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, People's Republic of China
    2. Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Chengdu, China
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    • Su Lui and Long Chen contributed equally to this work.

  • Su Lui,

    1. Department of Radiology, Huaxi MR Research Center (HMRRC), Center for Diagnostic Imaging, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, People's Republic of China
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    • Su Lui and Long Chen contributed equally to this work.

  • Qi-Zhu Wu,

    1. Department of Radiology, Huaxi MR Research Center (HMRRC), Center for Diagnostic Imaging, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, People's Republic of China
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  • Wei Zhang,

    1. Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Chengdu, China
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  • Dong Zhou,

    1. Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Chengdu, China
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  • Hua-Fu Chen,

    1. Brain Functional Lab, School of Science and Technology, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China
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  • Xiao-Qi Huang,

    1. Department of Radiology, Huaxi MR Research Center (HMRRC), Center for Diagnostic Imaging, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, People's Republic of China
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  • Wei-Hong Kuang,

    1. Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Chengdu, China
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  • Raymond C. Chan,

    1. Institute of Psychology, Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory; Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • Andrea Mechelli,

    1. Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
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  • Qi-Yong Gong

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Radiology, Huaxi MR Research Center (HMRRC), Center for Diagnostic Imaging, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, People's Republic of China
    • Department of Radiology, Huaxi MR Research Center (HMRRC), West China Hospital of Sichuan University, No. 37 Guo Xue Xiang, Chengdu, 610041 China
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Abstract

A characterization of the impact of natural disasters on the brain of survivors is critical for a better understanding of posttraumatic responses and may inform the development of more effective early interventions. Here we report alterations in white matter microstructure in survivors soon after Wenchuan earthquake in China in 2008. Within 25 days after the Wenchuan earthquake, 44 healthy survivors were recruited and scanned on a 3T MR imaging system. The survivors were divided into two groups according to their self-rating anxiety scale (SAS) score, including the SAS(+) (SAS > 55 after correction) group and “SAS(−)” (SAS < 55 after correction) group. Thrity-two healthy volunteers were also recruited as control group before earthquake. Individual maps of fractional anisotropy (FA) were calculated and voxel-based analysis (VBA) was performed to allow the comparison between survivors and controls using ANCOVAs in SPM2. In addition, a correlation between SAS score and regional FA value was examined using Pearson's correlation analysis in SPSS 11.5. Compared with the healthy cohort, the whole group of 44 survivors showed significantly decreased FA values in the right prefrontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the basal ganglia, and the right parahippocampus. These effects did not appear to depend on self-rating anxiety. For the first time we provide evidence that acute trauma altered cerebral microstructure within the limbic system; furthermore, these alterations are evident shortly after the traumatic event, highlighting the need for early evaluation and intervention for trauma survivors. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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