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These Two Parts of the Brain May Predict PTSD

These Two Parts of the Brain May Predict PTSD

If you’re struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, this article may offer you some clarity. Recent studies reveal a particular area of the brain can predict whether or not someone will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

If you struggle with PTSD or know someone with PTSD, this study may help you connect the dots a bit more. Researchers found an association between two brain regions involved in emotional regulation.

These two regions are called the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and researchers studied these areas shortly after trauma and symptoms of PTSD emerged within the following year. Now, neuroimaging will help predict whether a person will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry.

Led by senior author Dr. Kerry Ressler of Emory University in Georgia and Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, the study may help with future PTSD research.

“This study introduces a new potential biomarker of PTSD, highlighting new roles for neuroimaging in PTSD research,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

Understanding the PTSD biomarker could help limit or prevent symptoms of the disorder in the future.

“The search for such early biological markers of poor recovery is very important, because it will allow us to find the people who are most at risk right after a trauma, and intervene early, before the onset of disorders such as PTSD or depression,” said first author Dr. Jennifer Stevens, of Emory University.

Stevens and his colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the brain activity of 31 people. All people studied had recently endured a traumatic experience within approximately one month. The trauma was non-military related and included events like a car accident of sexual assault.

The participants were told to observe images of fearful faces (an index of threat). The researchers measured how neural activity responded in the amygdala and ACC> Self-reported PTSD symptoms were then assessed at the 1, 3 6, and 12-month mark.

The results were intriguing. People with a greater amygdala response to fearful faces endured more initial symptom severity and were more likely to maintain PTSD symptoms over the following years. Additionally, those with sharper response in the ACC region also showed a poorer recovery trajectory. The findings suggest that the amygdala and ventral ACC habituation to a thread predict the emergence of PTSD symptoms after trauma.

“The findings also suggest that an over-active amygdala may be one of the causes of PTSD and that we should try to develop treatments that reduce amygdala reactivity,” said Stevens.

If these areas are further confirmed to interfere with PTSD, interventions such as psychotherapy of pharmacological treatments that could be administered promptly after trauma occurs. Interventions during this stage would theoretically greatly reduce the risk of PTSD symptoms lasting long into the future.

Studies like these are crucial because often, traumatic events lead into negative coping mechanisms like drinking or abusing substances. Those who endure trauma often struggle with the aftermath of the event. PTSD is a serious condition and finding treatment options can help millions of Americans who struggle with the condition on a regular basis.

It is important to understand that mental illness is a disease, and should not be stigmatized. If you struggle with mental illness or addiction, please do not feel alone. Instead, call toll-free, and we can help you get back on track. Do not wait. Call now.

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Author: Shernide Delva