As per a recent research, brain imaging with MRI is a promising tool for identifying vulnerable patients and allowing interventions to begin sooner, potentially preventing any adverse brain changes.
PTSD is a mental health problem that occurs in the wake of one or more traumatic experiences.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of PTSD, as the multiple neurochemical and hormonal effects associated with childhood trauma can lead to lasting changes in brain structure and function.
Researchers from China recently used MRI to compare brain structure in 24 pediatric PTSD patients and a control group of 23 trauma-exposed children without PTSD.
The children had experienced the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a massive disaster in south central China that killed almost 70,000 people and injured more than 370,000.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), an MRI technique that measures th integrity of the brain’s white matter, was used to look at the brain’ connectome, or the map of the neural connections in the brain.
The human connectome includes a series of nodes, or brain regions linked by connections known as edges. Nodes with a relatively high number of edges are referred to as hubs.
Lead author of the study Qiyong Gong said, “Generally speaking, th structural connectome and the functional connectome are based on different types of raw images, which may be used to investigate th brain’s abnormalities through different views.”
Using DTI results and graph theory, a relatively simple and widel used way of modeling the human brain connectome, the researchers were able find significant structural differences between the PTSD an non-PTSD groups.
The PTSD group had changes suggestive of decreased local and globa network efficiency due to damage or disconnection between linke regions.
The researchers also identified a concerning trend in the structura connectome of PTSD patients.
Normally, the brain operates partly as a small-world network, or type of mathematical model in which most nodes can be reached from every other node by a small number of steps.
A small-world network aids in the high-efficiency parallel information transfer between networks that is necessary for brain function.
However, in the PTSD patients, the structural connectome showed trend toward regularization–a phenomenon in which the neural network moves from a small-world to a more regular network.
A regular network is more localized, so it takes many more steps t reach distant nodes.
“In a previous functional and current structural connectome study of the same patient group, we found a shift toward regularization in the brain networks of the PTSD patients relative to controls,” Gong said.
Adding, “Thus, we speculate that this regularization process may be a general pattern of pediatric PTSD.”
Differences were also observed in the salience network, a collection of brain regions that select which stimuli are deserving of attention.
The finding could point to a potential target for future treatmen plans in pediatric PTSD.
“These abnormalities suggest that PTSD can be better understood by examining the dysfunction of large-scale spatially distributed neural networks,” Gong said.
The study appeared online in the journal Radiology.