Structural brain features signaling trauma, PTSD, or resilience? A systematic exploration

Sigal Zilcha-Mano, Xi Zhu, Amit Lazarov, Benjamin Suarez-Jimenez, Liat Helpman, Yoojean Kim, Carly Maitlin, Yuval Neria, Bret R. Rutherford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Studies have searched for neurobiological markers of trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, and resilience to trauma to identify therapeutic targets for PTSD. Despite some promising results, findings are inconsistent. Aims: The present study adopted a data-driven approach to systematically explore whether structural brain markers of trauma, PTSD, or resilience emerge when all are explored. Materials & Methods: Differences between clusters in the proportion of PTSD, healthy controls (HC), and trauma-exposed healthy controls (TEHC) served to indicate the presence of PTSD, trauma, and resilience markers, respectively. A total of 129 individuals, including 46 with PTSD, 49 TEHCs, and 34 HCs not exposed to trauma were scanned. Volumes, cortical thickness, and surface areas of interest were obtained from T1 structural MRI and used to identify data-driven clusters. Results: Two clusters were identified, differing in the proportion of TEHCs but not of PTSDs or HCs. The cluster with the higher proportion of TEHCs, referred to as the resilience cluster, was characterized by higher volume in brain regions implicated in trauma exposure, especially the thalamus and rostral middle frontal gyrus. Cross-validation established the robustness and consistency of the identified clusters. Discussion & Conclusion: Findings support the existence of structural brain markers of resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-705
Number of pages11
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Depression and Anxiety published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • resilience
  • structural MRI
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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