The neurobiological role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in recovery from trauma: Longitudinal brain imaging study among survivors of the South Korean subway disaster

In Kyoon Lyoo, Jieun E. Kim, Sujung J. Yoon, Jaeuk Hwang, Sujin Bae, Dajung J. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations

Abstract

Context: A multiwave longitudinal neuroimaging study in a cohort of direct survivors of a South Korean subway disaster, most of whom recovered from posttraumatic stress disorder 5 years after trauma, provided a unique opportunity to investigate the brain correlates of recovery from a severe psychological trauma. Objectives: To investigate region-specific brain mobilization during successful recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder by assessing cortical thickness multiple times from early after trauma to recovery, and to examine whether a brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene polymorphism was associated with this brain mobilization. Design: Five-year follow-up case-control study conducted from 2003-2007. Setting: Seoul National University and Hospital. Participants: Thirty psychologically traumatized disaster survivors and 36 age- and sex-matched control group members recruited from the disaster registry and local community, respectively, who contributed 156 highresolution brain magnetic resonance images during 3 waves of assessments. Main Outcome Measures: Cerebral cortical thickness measured in high-resolution anatomic magnetic resonance images using a validated cortical thickness analysis tool and its prospective changes from early after trauma to recovery in trauma-exposed individuals and controls. Results: Trauma-exposed individuals had greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortical (DLPFC) thickness 1.42 years after trauma (right DLPFC, 5.4%; left superior frontal cortex, 5.8%; and left inferior frontal cortex, 5.3% [all clusters, P≤.01]) relative to controls. Thicknesses gradually normalized over time during recovery. We found a positive linear trend, with trauma-exposed individuals with a valine/valine genotype having the greatest DLPFC cortical thickness, followed by those with a methionine genotype and controls (P<.001 for trend). Greater DLPFC thickness was associated with greater posttraumatic stress disorder symptom reductions and better recovery. Conclusion: The DLPFC region might play an important role in psychological recovery from a severely traumatic event in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-713
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Volume68
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2011

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