Creatine concentration in the anterior cingulate cortex is associated with greater stress recovery from traumatic events: Preliminary evidence from a US Veteran sample

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition characterized by a prolonged stress response to potentially life-threatening events long after the event has passed. Understanding factors related to recovery from traumatic life events may inform novel targets for intervention. There is emerging preclinical evidence that creatine (Cr), a molecule critical to brain bioenergetics, may be a neurobiological marker of stress reactivity and recovery. METHOD: 25 US Veterans (8 female) completed the Life Events Checklist for DSM-5, which assessed different types of traumatic events. Veterans were also asked to rate the subjective stress of each traumatic event on a 1-10 scale currently (Current Stress) and at the time the event occurred (Past Stress). Stress recovery was quantified as the difference between Current and Past Stress. Current PTSD symptoms were also assessed using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5. Cr concentrations in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) were measured in the anterior cingulate cortex using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). RESULTS: Higher levels of Cr were associated with self-reported stress recovery from participants' most traumatic life event. Cr was not related to number of different types of traumatic life events or current PTSD symptoms. LIMITATIONS: The sample size was relatively small. Stress recovery was measured via retrospective self-report. Future experimental work in humans should clarify the protective role of Cr in recovery from trauma. CONCLUSIONS: ACC concentrations of Cr may be an important neurochemical factor related to stress recovery. Future work should investigate Cr as a possible protective factor against the effects of traumatic stress.

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