According to a study of Israeli infantrymen, soldiers preoccupied with threat at the time of enlistment or with avoiding it just before deployment were more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such pre-deployment threat vigilance and avoidance, interacting with combat experience and an emotion-related gene, accounted for more than a third of PTSD symptoms that emerged later, say National Institutes of Health scientists, who conducted the study in collaboration with American and Israeli colleagues.
"Since biased attention predicted future risk for PTSD, computerized training that helps modify such attention biases might help protect soldiers from the disorder," said Daniel Pine, M.D., of the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Pine, Yair Bar-Haim, Ph.D., of Tel Aviv University, and colleagues, report their findings, Feb. 13, 2013, in the journal JAMA Psychiatry
Bar-Haim's team tracked 1085 male Israeli soldiers from recruitment through combat deployment during 2008-2010, to pinpoint how shifting attitudes toward threat interact with other factors to predict symptoms that develop after exposure to dangers. They expected that the more soldiers paid attention to avoiding threats just before and during deployment, the more they would suffer PTSD symptoms.