Barcelona snapshots

Dr. Joaquim Radua

Joaquim Radua psiquiatra Controversies Psiquiatria Barcelona
IDIBAPS & Universitat de Barcelona
Ponència Neuroimatge en la resposta al trauma
Data Dijous, 25 d'abril, 2024
Hora 18:15 - 19:00
Taula rodona 1 Mecanismes del trauma


Dr. Radua serves as the head of the Imaging of Mood, Anxiety, and Related Disorders (IMARD) group at Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS, Barcelona) and is an associate professor at the University of Barcelona. His academic journey includes the studies of Medicine and Statistics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, a residency in Psychiatry at Bellvitge Hospital Barcelona, and a Ph.D. in Biostatistics of Brain Imaging at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London. He has conducted numerous multidisciplinary studies focusing on mental disorders, particularly employing advanced neuroimaging techniques. This dedication has resulted in over 300 publications and his inclusion on the Highly Cited Researchers List since 2017. Noteworthy among his contributions are developing several novel meta-analytic and neuroimaging methods, with the SDM software standing out as a recognized standard within the scientific community.


While trauma increases the risk of mental disorders trans-diagnostically, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) probably stands as the condition most closely linked with severe traumatic event exposure. Consequently, one strategy to investigate the effects of trauma on the brain involves comparing the brains of persons affected by PTSD with those of persons not affected by PTSD. This strategy does not come without reservations and complexities, which will be discussed during the presentation. For instance, should the control group be persons not affected by PTSD who, however, have also experienced similarly traumatic events? One may also have doubts about how to collect information about traumatic events, significantly since prospective and retrospective collections correlate little.

The presentation will review the brain regions primarily involved in PTSD according to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies. For instance, a priori region-of-interest studies have usually reported decreased volume of the anterior cingulate gyrus, the amygdala, the hippocampus, the insula, or the superior frontal gyrus. Voxel-based morphometry studies, which quantify gray matter volume across the whole brain, have also reported reductions in the lingual and fusiform gyri. Findings regarding fractional anisotropy, which reflects white matter fiber density, axonal diameters, and myelination, have been mixed.

Functional MRI (fMRI) may be a better-positioned tool for capturing the neural correlates of PTSD. In agreement with the structural findings, task-based fMRI studies have identified altered activation patterns in the amygdala, the anterior cingulate cortex, or the hippocampus. They have also reported lingual and thalamic alterations, among others. Resting-state fMRI studies, in turn, have found reduced functional connectivity for the key regions of the default mode network but increased connectivity with some regions of the salient network.

These findings will be contextualized to facilitate speculation regarding the affected underlying brain functions, such as threat detection or visual imagery. Finally, the presentation will offer preliminary insights from the ongoing neuroimaging research work conducted within the “Program for Prevention and Treatment of Psychological Sequelae in Women Victims of Sexual Assault” at Hospital Clínic de Barcelona about the brain correlates of PTSD following sexual assault.

Brain imaging studies on PTSD shed light on the profound impact of trauma on the human brain and provide clues for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms, facilitating the creation of targeted interventions for persons affected by this condition. Also, the findings of MRI studies may help raise awareness that PTSD is a severe condition, urging maximizing the prevention of traumatic events and giving the affected persons the proper care.


  • Serra-Blasco M, Radua J, <...> , Vieta E, Via E, Cardoner N. (2021). " Structural brain correlates in major depression, anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder: A voxel-based morphometry meta-analysis". Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021 Oct;129:269-281. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.07.002.
  • Suarez-Jimenez B, et al (2020). "Neural signatures of conditioning, extinction learning, and extinction recall in posttraumatic stress disorder: a meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies". Psychol Med. 2020 Jul;50(9):1442-1451. doi: 10.1017/S0033291719001387.
  • Amad A, Radua J, Vaiva G, Williams SC, Fovet T. (2019). "Similarities between borderline personality disorder and post traumatic stress disorder: Evidence from resting-state meta-analysis". Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 Oct;105:52-59. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.07.018.