The brains of children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have structural differences not seen in the brains of typical kids, a new study finds.
PTSD is a mental health problem that occurs in some people who've lived through a shocking or dangerous event. The damaging effects associated with childhood trauma can lead to lasting changes in brain function, the Chinese researchers said.
The researchers used MRI to compare brain structure in 24 children with PTSD and 23 without the disorder. All had experienced the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in south central China that killed nearly 70,000 people and injured more than 370,000.
Read: PTSD may be inherited
The two groups of children had significant differences in the network of neural connections in the brain, according to the study.
"The PTSD group had changes suggestive of decreased local and global network efficiency due to damage or disconnection between linked regions," said study lead author Dr Qiyong Gong, from West China Hospital of Sichuan University, and colleagues.
Follow-up brain imaging
The findings could help lead to new treatments for PTSD, the researchers said in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America.
Read: PTSD a real illness
The investigators hope to perform follow-up brain imaging on at least some of the children in the study to learn more about brain changes associated with PTSD.
The study results were published online in the journal Radiology.