Hydrocortisone responsiveness in Gulf War veterans with PTSD: Effects on ACTH, declarative memory hippocampal [18F]FDG uptake on PET

Rachel Yehuda, Julia A. Golier, Linda M. Bierer, Arthur Mikhno, Laura C. Pratchett, Charles L. Burton, Iouri Makotkine, D. P. Devanand, Gnanavalli Pradhaban, Philip D. Harvey, J. John Mann

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34 Scopus citations


Neuroendocrine, cognitive and hippocampal alterations have been described in Gulf War (GW) veterans, but their inter-relationships and significance for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have not been described. Hydrocortisone (Hcort) was administered to GW veterans with (PTSD+ n=12) and without (PTSD+ n=8) chronic PTSD in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind challenge. Changes in plasma ACTH, memory, and hippocampal [18F]FDG uptake on positron emission tomography were assessed. The low-dose dexamethasone suppression test was also administered. The PTSD+ group showed greater cortisol and ACTH suppression, reflecting greater peripheral glucocorticoid receptor (GR) responsiveness, and did not show an Hcort-induced decrement in delayed recall or retention. The groups had comparable relative regional hippocampal [18F]FDG uptake at baseline, but only the PTSD+ group had an Hcort-associated decrease in hippocampal [18F]FDG uptake. Asymmetry in hippocampal hemispheric volumes differed between PTSD+ and PTSD+ groups. This asymmetry was associated with cortisol, ACTH, retention and functional hippocampal asymmetry before, but not after, Hcort administration. Differences in brain metabolic responses between GW veterans with and without PTSD may reflect differences in peripheral and central GR responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Cortisol
  • Episodic memory
  • Glucocorticoid receptors
  • Gulf War veterans
  • Hippocampus
  • PTSD
  • [F]FDG-PET


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