Effects of childhood trauma on anterior-posterior axis of the hippocampus in psychosis: a BSNIP study

Elisabetta C. del Re, PhD

VA Boston Healthcare System
Effects of childhood trauma on anterior-posterior axis of the hippocampus in psychosis: a BSNIP study

Scientific Abstract

Background: A history of childhood trauma has been shown to increase the risk of developing major psychiatric disorders such as psychosis spectrum disorders. Structural deficits of the hippocampus have been observed in individuals with a history of childhood trauma, with or without psychopathology suggesting that exposure to early life stress directly affects the development of the hippocampus. Here, we address how childhood trauma may affect the anterior (aHP) and posterior (pHP) hippocampus in psychosis patients and healthy controls.

We predict that early life stress mediates a reduction in volume of the aHP and pHP and that abnormalities might add on to those related to psychopathology.

Methods: Psychosis probands (n=619) and controls (n=373) were recruited by the BSNIP2 study. Childhood trauma severity was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) total scores. Each participant received a T1-MPRAGE that was processed using FreeSurfer 7.1.0 to calculate aHP and pHP volume. Statistical analysis was done using R (4.0.3), with HP volumes adjusted for age, sex, race, scanner, and eTIV. A Pearson correlation was used to relate HP with CTQ.

Results: In the whole sample, both volumes of aHP and pHP significantly and negatively correlated with CTQ, with left pHP being the most severe (r=-0.16, pfdrj<0.001).

Discussion: Data from a large cohort of controls and probands identifies a reduction in volume of the left pHP as being associated with childhood trauma. This suggests that childhood trauma has implications on hippocampus structure beyond those of psychopathology. In future analysis, we will explore gender differences, different types of trauma and their associations with aHP, pHP and hippocampal subfields. Further we will look at association with measures of psychopathology and cognition.

Live Zoom Session – April 21st

research Areas


Evie Coxon, Victor Zeng, BS, Paulo Lizano, MD, PhD, Elliot Gershon, MD, Godfrey Pearlson, MD, John A. Sweeney, PhD, Brett A Clementz, PhD, Carol A Tamminga, MD, Matcheri S. Keshavan, MD, Elisabetta C. del Re, PhD