The neural correlates of intimate partner violence in women

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African Journal of Psychiatry

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University of Cape Town

Objective: To examine hippocampal volume and white matter tracts in women with and without intimate partner violence (IPV). Method: Nineteen women with IPV exposure in the last year, and 21 women without IPV exposure in the last year underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) sequences. Additional data on alcohol use and presence of psychiatric disorder was collected. Differences in fractional anisotropy (FA) between the two groups were examined, using a statistical model that included demographic measures, alcohol use and psychiatric disorder. Results: IPV subjects did not demonstrate significantly different hippocampal volumes compared to subjects without recent IPV. FA was, however, significantly reduced in the body of the corpus callosum of IPV subjects. Adjusting for age, alcohol use, smoking and psychiatric diagnosis did not change the significance of the result. Conclusion: Data on hippocampal volume in IPV are inconsistent, perhaps reflecting the fact that multiple factors influence this measure. Reduced FA in the body of the corpus callosum in IPV suggests altered integrity of this white matter tract; additional work is needed to address the underlying mechanisms and clinical correlates of this finding.