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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00738

Grey Matter Alterations associated with Dissociation in Female Survivors of Childhood Trauma: a Replication Study

 Judith K. Daniels1, Anna Schulz2,  Pengfei Han2, Fabian Rottstädt2, Kersten Diers2, Kerstin Weidner2 and  Ilona Croy2*
  • 1University of Groningen, Netherlands
  • 2Dresden University of Technology, Germany

Objective: Across various axis-1 disorders, the severity of dissociative symptoms is significantly related to a history of childhood traumatization. Thus, the question arises if coping with childhood trauma leads to neural adaptations that enhance the frequency of dissociative processing during adulthood. The aim of the two reported studies therefore was to identify and replicate grey matter alterations associated with dissociation.
Methods and Results: In a first study, whole-brain MRI data were acquired for 22 female in-patients with trauma-spectrum disorders and a history of severe childhood trauma. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was carried out to test for significant correlations between dissociation (depersonalization/derealisation) severity and grey matter volume. Dissociation severity was positively associated with volume in the left angular gyrus. This result was diagnosis-invariant. The replication study involved 26 female in-patients with trauma-spectrum disorders and 25 healthy controls. No significant association between dissociation severity and brain volume in a left angular gyrus region of interest located at the peak identified in study 1 was identified and no significant group difference in this region could be established.
Conclusion: The angular gyrus has previously been implicated in the processing of agency and vestibular integration as well as dissociative processing. The current attempt at a direct replication of brain volume alterations however failed. The data thus only partially support the notion that dissociative processing is associated trans-diagnostically with structural brain alterations in the left angular gyrus and independent replication in a larger patient sample is essential.

Keywords: childhood trauma, dissociation, VBM, Grey Matter, temporoparietal junction, posttraumatic stress disorder

Received: 05 Nov 2018; Accepted: 16 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Roberto Viviani, University of Innsbruck, Austria

Reviewed by:

Davide Nardo, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Harald Kugel, University Hospital Münster, Germany  

Copyright: © 2019 Daniels, Schulz, Han, Rottstädt, Diers, Weidner and Croy. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ilona Croy, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, 81925, Lower Saxony, Germany, ilona.croy@ukdd.de