Alterations in hippocampal subfield and amygdala subregion volumes in posttraumatic subjects with and without posttraumatic stress disorder

Lianqing Zhang, Lu Lu, Xuan Bu, Hailong Li, Shi Tang, Yingxue Gao, Kaili Liang, Suming Zhang, Xinyue Hu, Yanlin Wang, Lei Li, Xinyu Hu, Kelvin O. Lim, Qiyong Gong, Xiaoqi Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The hippocampus and amygdala are important structures in the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, the exact relationship between these structures and stress or PTSD remains unclear. Moreover, they consist of several functionally distinct subfields/subregions that may serve different roles in the neuropathophysiology of PTSD. Here we present a subregional profile of the hippocampus and amygdala in 145 survivors of a major earthquake and 56 non-traumatized healthy controls (HCs). We found that the bilateral hippocampus and left amygdala were significantly smaller in survivors than in HCs, and there was no difference between survivors with (n = 69) and without PTSD (trauma-exposed controls [TCs], n = 76). Analyses revealed similar results in most subfields/subregions, except that the right hippocampal body (in a head-body-tail segmentation scheme), right presubiculum, and left amygdala medial nuclei (Me) were significantly larger in PTSD patients than in TCs but smaller than in HCs. Larger hippocampal body were associated with the time since trauma in PTSD patients. The volume of the right cortical nucleus (Co) was negatively correlated with the severity of symptoms in the PTSD group but positively correlated with the same measurement in the TC group. This correlation between symptom severity and Co volume was significantly different between the PTSD and TCs. Together, we demonstrated that generalized smaller volumes in the hippocampus and amygdala were more likely to be trauma-related than PTSD-specific, and their subfields/subregions were distinctively affected. Notably, larger left Me, right hippocampal body and presubiculum were PTSD-specific; these could be preexisting factors for PTSD or reflect rapid posttraumatic reshaping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2147-2158
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Natural Science Foundation of China, Grant/Award Numbers: 81671669, 81621003, 81761128023, 81820108018 Funding information

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation (81671669,81621003,81761128023, 81820108018,82027808).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Human Brain Mapping published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • Hippocampus
  • posttic disorder
  • psychoradiology
  • stress
  • trauma
  • trauma amygdala


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