In a study carried out at the NYU School of
Medicine, researchers have shown that post-trauma effects persist in certain regions of the brain of war veterans
even in the absence of any immediate danger or in the absence of any cognitive
or emotional tasks.
The study, led by Xiaodan Yan, hopes to create a better understanding of brain function and also to develop better treatment options to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder
PTSD is a chronic condition that is commonly seen in those who
have been traumatized by a natural
calamity or a tragic event. This condition is characterized by the patient reviving
flashbacks or very disturbing memories and nightmares even after
a long time after the event has taken place; in some people, who are
particularly sensitive, it could lead to emotional instability too!
During the course of the study the resting brain activity in 104
Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans
was analyzed. Functional MRI was employed to assess the blood oxygen levels in
these persons. It was found that the resting or spontaneous brain activity in
the amygdala was considerably higher in
the 52 war veterans with PTSD than in those without the condition. It must be
noted that the amygdale is the part of the brain involved in "fear circuitry," and which processes emotions
such as fear and anxiety.
This group also showed increased
brain activity in the anterior insula of the brain that controls the
sensitivity of a person to pain and other negative emotions.
The PTSD group also showed
reduced activity in the percuneous, which
is a structure that is tucked
between the two cerebral hemispheres of the
brain and helps to link information from the past and the future. This
reduced activity, is especially observed
during times when the mind is not actively engaged, and is correlated with the patient
re-experiencing trauma in the form of flashbacks and nightmares.
PTSD can bring about several
biological and psychological changes in
a person and is characterized by a series of symptoms such as aloofness,
jumpiness, seeing nightmares, feeling of guilt
and low self esteem. A suicidal tendency is also very high in these
individuals. The condition can be quite
debilitating if not properly addressed. Relaxation techniques, cognitive
therapy, counseling and medications are some of the methods which may be
adopted to address the issue.
The result of the above study has been published in Neuroscience Letters.