Neuroimaging Correlates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Traumatic Brain Injury: A Systematic Review of the Literature

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Journal of Neurotrauma


Neuroimaging is widely utilized in studying traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The risk for PTSD is greater after TBI than after non-TBI trauma, and PTSD is associated with worse outcomes after TBI. Studying the neuroimaging correlates of TBI-related PTSD may provide insights into the etiology of both conditions and help identify those TBI patients most at risk of developing persistent symptoms. The objectives of this systematic review were to examine the current literature on neuroimaging in TBI-related PTSD, summarize key findings, and highlight strengths and limitations to guide future research. A Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA) compliant literature search was conducted in PubMed (MEDLINE®), PsycINFO, Embase, and Scopus databases prior to January 2022. The database query yielded 4486 articles, which were narrowed based on specified inclusion criteria to a final cohort of 16 studies, composed of 854 participants with TBI. There was no consensus regarding neuroimaging correlates of TBI-related PTSD among the included articles. A small number of studies suggest that TBI-related PTSD is associated with white matter tract changes, particularly in frontotemporal regions, as well as changes in whole-brain networks of resting-state connectivity. Future studies hoping to identify reliable neuroimaging correlates of TBI-related PTSD would benefit from ensuring consistent case definition, preferably with clinician-diagnosed TBI and PTSD, selection of comparable control groups, and attention to imaging timing post-injury. Prospective studies are needed and should aim to further differentiate predisposing factors from sequelae of TBI-related PTSD.

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