Gray matter volume alterations related to trait dissociation in PTSD and traumatized controls

D. Nardo, G. Högberg, R. A. Lanius, H. Jacobsson, C. Jonsson, T. Hällström, M. Pagani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-233
Number of pages12
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


  • Dissociative Experience Scale
  • Gray matter volume
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Trait dissociation
  • Voxel-based morphometry (VBM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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