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Keywords:

  • voxel-based morphometry (VBM);
  • gray matter volume;
  • post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • trait dissociation;
  • Dissociative Experience Scale

Objective

This study used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to investigate brain structural alterations related to trait dissociation and its relationship with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method

Thirty-two subjects either developing (N = 15) or non-developing (N = 17) PTSD underwent MRI scanning and were assessed with the Dissociative Experience Scale (DES), subscales for pathological (DES-T) and non-pathological trait (DES-A) dissociation, and other clinical measures. Gray matter volume (GMV) was analyzed using VBM as implemented in SPM. PTSD and non-PTSD subjects were compared to assess brain alterations related to PTSD pathology, whereas correlation analyses between dissociation measures and GMV were performed on the whole sample (N = 32), irrespective of PTSD diagnosis, to identify alterations related to trait dissociation.

Results

As compared to traumatized controls, PTSD subjects showed reduced GMV in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and lingual gyrus. Correlations with dissociation measures (DES, DES-T, and DES-A) consistently showed increased GMV in the medial and lateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal, parahippocampal, temporal polar, and inferior parietal cortices.

Conclusion

PTSD and dissociation seem to be associated with opposite volumetric patterns in the prefrontal cortex. Trait dissociation appears to involve increased GMV in prefrontal, paralimbic, and parietal cortices, with negligible differences between pathological and non-pathological dissociation.