Researchers report new insights into how the brain responds to extreme stress, whether from combat, natural disasters, or repeated violent competition.
The insights offer hope for detecting and treating several widespread and debilitating neuropsychiatric disorders, and were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after experience of a traumatic or terrifying event, such as those experienced in combat or from sexual aggression. Such events can overwhelm the individual's ability to cope and lead to a long-lasting disorder. Symptoms include re-experiencing the original trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, often triggered by seemingly innocuous events. PTSD can harm an individual's relationships, ability to work, to sleep, and other aspects of life.
The lifetime prevalence of PTSD among adult Americans is 8 percent. Neither drug nor behavioral treatments currently available are consistently effective in treating PTSD. Therefore, scientists are studying brain changes associated with PTSD and related cognitive disorders, looking for clues to help in the development of new treatments.
Today's findings show that:
Other recent findings discussed show:
"New methods for looking deep into the brain are revealing a dynamic landscape that changes as it must to cope with trauma," said press conference moderator Sheena Josselyn, PhD, from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, an expert on the neural basis of brain function. "The more we learn about those changes, and how experiences remodel the brain, the more tools we will acquire for treating disorders that affect millions of people."
This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as private and philanthropic organizations.
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