Open Access Open Badges Brief Report

Habenula volume in post-traumatic stress disorder measured with high-resolution MRI

Jonathan B Savitz12*, Omer Bonne3, Allison C Nugent14, Meena Vythilingam15, Wendy Bogers1, Dennis S Charney6 and Wayne C Drevets12

Author Affiliations

1 Section on Neuroimaging in Mood and Anxiety Disorders, NIH/NIMH, Bethesda, MD, USA

2 Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa University, and University of Oklahoma, Tulsa, OK, USA

3 Department of Psychiatry, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

4 Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch, NIH/NIMH, Bethesda, MD, USA

5 Psychological Health Strategic Operations, Force Health Protection & Readiness, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Falls Church, VA, USA

6 Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders 2011, 1:7  doi:10.1186/2045-5380-1-7

Published: 12 October 2011



The habenula plays an important role in regulating behavioral responses to stress and shows increased cerebral blood flow and decreased gray matter volume in patients with mood disorders. Here, we compare the volume of the habenula in unmedicated patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and healthy controls (HC) using MRI.


High-resolution images (resolution of approximately 0.4 mm3) were acquired using a 3T scanner and a pulse sequence optimized for tissue contrast resolution. The habenula was manually segmented by one rater blind to diagnosis. PTSD and HC participants did not differ significantly in absolute or normalized habenula volume. Post hoc analyses controlling for the effects of comorbid major depressive disorder (MDD) and type and age of trauma exposure were not significant. Further, there was no association between PTSD severity and habenula volume.


Our data suggest that PTSD is not associated with robust structural changes in the habenula. The modest size of the PTSD sample may have reduced statistical power thereby accounting for the negative results obtained.