Functional neuroimaging with default mode network regions distinguishes PTSD from TBI in a military veteran population


Background: PTSD and TBI are two common conditions in veteran populations that can be difficult to distinguish clinically. The default mode network (DMN) is abnormal in a multitude of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Objective: We hypothesize that brain perfusion SPECT can be applied to diagnostically separate PTSD from TBI reliably in a veteran cohort using DMN regions.

Method: A group of 196 veterans (36 with PTSD, 115 with TBI, 45 with PTSD/TBI) were selected from a large multi-site population cohort of individuals with psychiatric disease. Inclusion criteria were peacetime or wartime veterans regardless of branch of service and included those for whom the traumatic brain injury was not service related. SPECT imaging was performed on this group both at rest and during a concentration task. These measures, as well as the baseline-concentration difference, were then inputted from DMN regions into separate binary logistic regression models controlling for age, gender, race, clinic site, co-morbid psychiatric diseases, TBI severity, whether or not the TBI was service related, and branch of armed service. Predicted probabilities were then inputted into a receiver operating characteristic analysis to compute sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy.

Results: Compared to PSTD, persons with TBI were older, male, and had higher rates of bipolar and major depressive disorder (pā€‰<ā€‰0.05). Baseline quantitative regions with SPECT separated PTSD from TBI in the veterans with 92 % sensitivity, 85 % specificity, and 94 % accuracy. With concentration scans, there was 85 % sensitivity, 83 % specificity and 89 % accuracy. Baseline-concentration (the difference metric between the two scans) scans were 85 % sensitivity, 80 % specificity, and 87 % accuracy. In separating TBI from PTSD/TBI visual readings of baseline scans had 85 % sensitivity, 81 % specificity, and 83 % accuracy. Concentration scans had 80 % sensitivity, 65 % specificity, and 79 % accuracy. Baseline-concentration scans had 82 % sensitivity, 69 % specificity, and 81 % accuracy. For separating PTSD from PTSD/TBI baseline scans had 87 % sensitivity, 83 % specificity, and 92 % accuracy. Concentration scans had 91 % sensitivity, 76 % specificity, and 88 % accuracy. Baseline-concentration scans had 84 % sensitivity, 64 % specificity, and 85 % accuracy.

Conclusion(s): This study demonstrates the ability to separate PTSD and TBI from each other in a veteran population using functional neuroimaging

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