Researchers used MRI scans to examine the brains of 59 children, aged 9 to 17. The participants included 30 kids with PTSD and 29 without the disorder (the “control” group).
Girls and boys in the control group had no differences in brain structure, the researchers said. But among those with PTSD, girls and boys showed differences in one part of the insula — an area of the brain involved in emotion and empathy.
This brain area was larger in boys with PTSD than in other boys, and was smaller in girls with PTSD than in the control group girls, according to researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
The findings, published online Nov. 11 in the journal Depression and Anxiety, are believed to be the first of their kind, the study authors noted in a university news release.
“The insula appears to play a key role in the development of PTSD,” said senior author Dr. Victor Carrion, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford.
“The difference we saw between the brains of boys and girls who have experienced psychological trauma is important because it may help explain differences in trauma symptoms between sexes,” he added.