Researchers team up toward better understanding of PTSD

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers to map the brain using MEG imaging to find PTSD treatments.
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Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have teamed up to try to understand PTSD and find better treatment options for military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The scientists are working to understand what happens in the brain, with the help of a high-tech imaging technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG).

The researchers plan to test military veterans with and without a PTSD, with different levels of impairment while the veterans perform games that engage the brain while sitting in a scanner.

The hope is that by studying different brain areas during the task, the researchers can pinpoint dysfunctional areas that may be the result of TBI or PTSD to compare to people without the disorders.

Dwayne W. Godwin, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Wake Forest Baptist and co-principal investigator on the project. “It’s a problem that will only continue to grow in the future as our troops return home from these conflicts. This challenge provides a unique opportunity to learn more about this disorder from data that exists on a well-defined pool of patients who have been medically evaluated and tested.”

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PTSD isn’t an affliction of only war veterans. It can happen to anyone faced with intense trauma, but scientists don’t completely understand the condition.

"PTSD is accompanied by a range of different symptoms that may reflect changes in underlying brain networks that relate to executive control”, says Godwin.

“These individuals may have a range of symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, exaggerated responses to normal things, irritability, experience anger management issues, have more risky behaviors, disruptions or trouble sleeping,” he said. “It’s a disorder that has a large impact on a person’s ability to navigate through daily life.”

The scientists also plan to investigate white matter pathways in the brain to see if individuals with PTSD differ from others.

The researchers say if they can find the abnormalities, physicians can intervene and treat TBI and PTSD quickly, hopefully leading to better outcomes. The researchers say things are only going to get worse for PTSD as our troops return home from the war.

Image: Areas of the brain involved in fear and stress
Credit: Wikimedia commons

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