Association between memory impairment and brain metabolite concentrations in North Korean refugees with posttraumatic stress disorder

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Abstract

Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had experiences of enormous psychological stress that can result in neurocognitive and neurochemical changes. To date, the causal relationship between them remains unclear. The present study is to investigate the association between neurocognitive characteristics and neural metabolite concentrations in North Korean refugees with PTSD. A total of 53 North Korean refugees with or without PTSD underwent neurocognitive function tests. For neural metabolite scanning, magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) has been conducted. We assessed between-group differences in neurocognitive test scores and metabolite levels. Additionally, a multiple regression analysis was carried out to evaluate the association between neurocognitive function and metabolite levels in patients with PTSD. Memory function, but not other neurocognitive functions, was significantly lower in the PTSD group compared with the non-PTSD group. Hippocampal N-acetylaspartate (NAA) levels were not different between groups; however, NAA levels were significantly lower in the ACC of the PTSD group than the non-PTSD group (t = 2.424, p = 0.019). The multiple regression analysis showed a negative association between hippocampal NAA levels and delayed recall score on the auditory verbal learning test (beta = -1.744, p = 0.011) in the non-PTSD group, but not in the PTSD group. We identified specific memory impairment and the role of NAA levels in PTSD. Our findings suggest that hippocampal NAA has a protective role in memory impairment and development of PTSD after exposure to traumatic events.

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Shin, J. E., Choi, C. H., Lee, J. M., Kwon, J. S., Lee, S. H., Kim, H. C., … Yoo, S. Y. (2017). Association between memory impairment and brain metabolite concentrations in North Korean refugees with posttraumatic stress disorder. PLoS ONE, 12(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188953

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