Amygdala and hippocampus volumes are differently affected by childhood trauma in patients with bipolar disorders and healthy controls

Delfina Janiri, Gabriele Sani, Pietro De Rossi, Fabrizio Piras, Mariangela Iorio, Nerisa Banaj, Giulia Giuseppin, Edoardo Spinazzola, Matteo Maggiora, Elisa Ambrosi, Alessio Simonetti, Gianfranco Spalletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Volumetric studies on deep gray matter structures in bipolar disorder (BP) have reported contrasting results. Childhood trauma, a relevant environmental stressor for BP, could account for the variability of the results, modulating differences in the amygdala and hippocampus in patients with BP compared with healthy controls (HC). Our study aimed to test this hypothesis. Methods: We assessed 105 outpatients, diagnosed with bipolar disorder type I (BP-I) or bipolar disorder type II (BP-II) according to DSM-IV-TR criteria, and 113 HC subjects. History of childhood trauma was obtained using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging was performed on all subjects and volumes of the amygdala, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, caudate, pallidum, putamen, and thalamus were measured using FreeSurfer. Results: Patients with BP showed a global reduction of deep gray matter volumes compared to HCs. However, childhood trauma modulated the impact of the diagnosis specifically on the amygdala and hippocampus. Childhood trauma was associated with bilateral decreased volumes in HCs and increased volumes in patients with BP. Conclusions: The results suggest that childhood trauma may have a different effect in health and disease on volumes of gray matter in the amygdala and hippocampus, which are brain areas specifically involved in response to stress and emotion processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-362
Number of pages10
JournalBipolar Disorders
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017


  • amygdala
  • bipolar disorders
  • childhood trauma
  • hippocampus
  • magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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