Connecting combat-related mild traumatic brain injury with posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms through brain imaging

Michelle E. Costanzo, Yi Yu Chou, Suzanne Leaman, Dzung L. Pham, David Keyser, Dominic E. Nathan, Mary Coughlin, Paul Rapp, Michael J. Roy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may share common symptom and neuropsychological profiles in military service members (SMs) following deployment; while a connection between the two conditions is plausible, the relationship between them has been difficult to discern. The intent of this report is to enhance our understanding of the relationship between findings on structural and functional brain imaging and symptoms of PTSD. Within a cohort of SMs who did not meet criteria for PTSD but were willing to complete a comprehensive assessment within 2 months of their return from combat deployment, we conducted a nested case-control analysis comparing those with combat-related mTBI to age/gender-matched controls with diffusion tensor imaging, resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging and a range of psychological measures. We report degraded white matter integrity in those with a history of combat mTBI, and a positive correlation between the white matter microstructure and default mode network (DMN) connectivity. Higher clinician-administered and self-reported subthreshold PTSD symptoms were reported in those with combat mTBI. Our findings offer a potential mechanism through which mTBI may alter brain function, and in turn, contribute to PTSD symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-15
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
StatePublished - 8 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Combat-related posttraumatic stress
  • Default mode network
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Mild traumatic brain injury


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