a1 Neuroimaging Laboratory, Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy
a2 Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Section for Psychiatry, Huddinge, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
a3 Department of Psychology, University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
a4 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
a5 Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, CNR, Rome, Italy
Background The aim of this study was to investigate the distribution of the regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in occupational-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) subjects and to seek possible correlations between brain perfusion and self-rating scales (SRS) in order to cross-check their diagnostic value and to look for their neural correlates.
Method A total of 13 traumatized underground and long-distance train drivers developing (S) and 17 not developing (NS) PTSD who had experienced a ‘person under train’ accident or who had been assaulted at work underwent clinical assessment and 99mTc-HMPAO SPECT imaging during autobiographical trauma scripts. Statistical parametric mapping was applied to analyse rCBF changes in S as compared with NS and to search for correlations between rCBF and the administered SRS scores, modelling age, months to SPECT and the ratio ‘grey matter/intra-cranial volume’ as nuisance variables.
Results Significantly higher activity was observed during trauma script in left posterior and anterior insula, posterior cingulate, inferior parietal lobule, precuneus, caudate and putamen in PTSD subjects as compared with the trauma-exposed control group. Impact of Event Scale and World Health Organisation (10) Well-Being Index scores highly correlated with tracer uptake to a great extent in the same regions in which rCBF differences between S and NS were found.
Conclusions These findings support the involvement of insular, cingulate and parietal cortices (as well as the basal ganglia) in the pathogenesis of PTSD and in the processing of related subjective well-being and distress.
(Received December 24 2009)
(Revised April 05 2011)
(Accepted May 05 2011)
(Online publication June 15 2011)