This study tested volumetric brain differences between pediatric groups with and without posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a region-of-interest meta-analysis.
Findings on structural brain volume associated with pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been variable, and it is unclear whether any structural differences are specific to pediatric PTSD in comparison with adult PTSD or other co-occurring pediatric psychiatric conditions. The current study conducted meta-regressions to test the effects of age and sex on heterogeneous study findings. To assess specificity, the study compared pediatric PTSD with adult PTSD, pediatric trauma exposure without PTSD, pediatric depression, and pediatric anxiety. In 15 studies examined, pediatric PTSD was associated with smaller total gray matter and cerebral, temporal lobe (total, right, and left), total cerebellar vermis, and hippocampal (total, right, and left) volumes, compared to peers without PTSD. In the pediatric PTSD group, but not the comparison group, the study found a trend toward smaller total, right, and left amygdalar volumes. In an external comparison, smaller hippocampal volume was not significantly different between adult and pediatric PTSD groups. Qualitative comparisons with a pediatric trauma exposure without PTSD group, a pediatric depression group, and a pediatric anxiety group revealed differences that may be unique to pediatric PTSD, and others that may be convergent with these related clinical conditions in youth. The study concluded that pediatric PTSD is associated with structural differences that parallel those associated with adult PTSD. Furthermore, pediatric PTSD appears to be distinct from other related pediatric conditions at the structural level. Future studies employing longitudinal, dimensional, and multimodal neuroimaging approaches will further elucidate the nature of neurobiological differences in pediatric PTSD. (publisher abstract modified)