Effects of phenytoin on memory, cognition and brain structure in post-traumatic stress disorder: A pilot study

J. Douglas Bremner, Tanja Mletzko, Silke Welter, Sinead Quinn, Chanda Williams, Marijn Brummer, Sajid Siddiq, Lai Reed, Christine M. Heim, Charles B. Nemeroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Phenytoin (Dilantin®) is an anticonvulsant used in the treatment of epilepsy. It is believed to act by modulation of glutamatergic transmission. Because the neurobiology of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been hypothesized to involve alterations in glutamatergic transmission with subsequention neurotoxicity, we assessed the effects of phenytoin on cognition and brain structure in PTSD patients. Phenytoin was administered in an open label fashion for 3 months to nine adult patients with PTSD related to a variety of traumas, including early abuse, combat and car accidents. Subjects underwent magnetic resonance imaging for measurement of whole brain and hippocampal volume, and neuropsychological testing of memory and cognition, before and after treatment. Phenytoin treatment resulted in a significant 6% increase in right brain volume (p < 0.05). Increased hippocampal volume was correlated with reductions in symptom severity as measured by the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale and improvements in executive function as measured by the Trails test. However, treatment associated improvements in memory and cognition did not achieve statistical significance. These findings suggest that phenytoin treatment may be associated with changes in brain structure in patients with PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-165
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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