Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Because PTSD has such a broad base of literature surrounding it, I chose to look at an article that reviewed multiple studies.  The first part of the paper discussed how researchers still don’t really know how to categorized the breakdown that occurs with PTSD.  This article gave three possible options 1) that it is a response to “toxic exposure” that can then become generalized and effect the daily life of the patience, 2) that if is a failure of the recovery system because of over use of certain brain regions such as the amygdala, or 3) that it is a disorder in forgetting or the inability to forget.  This article then went on to discuss different brain regions that have been identified using neural imaging.  Brain imaging studies have implicated the amygdala (increased blood flow), the prefrontal cortex(decreased blood flow), and the hippocampus in PTSD.  One study identified the hippocampus as being smaller in patience with PTSD, but found this to be a predisposing factor rather than a result of the disorder.  The perrhinal cortex has also been shown to be an indicator of the recovery after trauma.  As you can see there is a wealth of literature surrounding PTSD and different brain regions, so there would be a lot to explore!

This article also reviewed literature on the serotonin and the 5-HT2A receptors.  Basically stress enhances serotonin in the amygdala which then reduces the excitability of the amygdala by increasing GABAenergic transmission to the basolateral amygdala nucleus (BLA).  The process is very important for normalizing emotion, and some studies have suggested that symptoms of PTSD could be a result of these neurotransmitters malfunctioning in the amygdala.  In one study, a small sample of war veterans suffering from PTSD was given a 5-HT2A agonist, and they showed significant improvement in their symptoms.  Another study showed with PET scans that the density of 5-HT2A receptors decreased in drug naïve depressed patients.  These studies suggest that 5-HT2A and serotonin can be implicated in the symptoms of PTSD and depression.

Another interesting aspect of PTSD is the multiple animal models that exist for research. Some of these include foot shocking, forced swim, and predator induced stress.  Since these models exist there are fewer limitations for research on PTSD.

Here is a video I found that show just how real PTSD is especially in America today. With many people returning from Iraq and with the victims of hurricane Katrina there are many people who could be helped from further research on PTSD.  Also, if you look around there are some pretty sad stories on you-tube about PTSD, but I didn’t really want to post them since they were really difficult to watch.

9 thoughts on “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  1. PTSD is such a terrifying disorder–especially as it becomes more and more talked about during this time of war. My cousin was in Iraq in 2004, and served in Baghdad and other areas which were under heavy fire and where there were many conflicts and intense situations. I am so thankful he came home and has adjusted well to being back home. However, his bunkmate was not as lucky. Shortly after they returned home, my cousin’s friend and bunkmate shot himself in the head because he was unable to cope with what had happened back in Iraq. It just blows my mind that he could have been so deeply affected that he resorted to suicide, but (thankfully) my cousin was not affected in the same way. Why is this??


  2. I also wonder why PTSD happens to some people that are involved in a traumatic incident, but not all. Is it a personality characteristic to be more susceptible to PTSD? How strong is the genetic link to PTSD? Also, what is the earliest age that a human can develop PTSD?

    Furthermore, how successful are the treatments? And why don’t we have a national health care plan to insure those attending cognitive behavior therapy since it is proven to be the best to treat depression, anxiety, and eating disorders (which a large proportion of Americans seem to have)?


  3. Lia, I like your comment about having a national health care plan to insure CBT treatments for soldiers after war. And going along with your comment about if certain personality characteristics are more susceptible to PTSD, I wonder if there is in fact a personality characterisic and if so, if they can screen for it before soldiers go to war. With this information, they could make recommendations whether to continue to enlist or not. I watched other youtube clips of how soldiers dealt (or didn’t) with PTSD post war. One man who served in the Navy said that he becomes very disturbed and physically pained when he hears high pitched noises, like the cries of his children. This is a clear example of physiological conditioned responses to external stimuli. I wonder if CBT would “cure” this type of thing. This soldier’s wife also said that her husband wakes up every morning and says to himself “how can I get through this day” and sustain enough energy.


  4. Great comments. It is a serious puzzle to understand why there are such diverse outcomes, like one pathological and one not, in two people who experienced very similar events. This piece also presents a challenge to researchers who want to develop and use animal models. But there is mounting data out there and I look forward to our PTSD book group telling us more. Lia, this definitely affects children and it seems to be a bit of a different animal when it does.


  5. Okay so if PTSD affects children, it must completely effect their developing brains and lead to some long term damage. I wonder what the long term damage for children that undergo PTSD or depression is.


  6. So, does anyone watch Grey’s anatomy? Well, Hunt developed PTSD after serving in Iraq.

    Definitely check out the clip!

    PTSD is very serious. I think this man was nominated last year for CNN Hero’s of the year because he would find homeless veterans (most had PTSD) in Florida and help them get on their feet.


  7. Going along with Lia’s first comment, and although I haven’t looked into it yet, I think personality or coping mechanisms may have a huge effect on how people react to traumatic experiences. In instances like going to war, I think many of the soldiers may have different reasons for entering the army, and it’s possible that those reasons could be a factor in what they are prepared for and how they are going to deal with these situations. It also could depend on people’s past experiences and how they’ve dealt with trauma in the past or if they have ever experienced it before. So many possibilities!!


  8. I read last year about some PTSD patients who were told to recall their memories over and over again and they were supposed to associate less and less emotion with it every time they remembered their memories. I think the point of the exercise was to make memories of “emotionally desensitized” memories over their original memory in attempts to separate the strong emotions from the memory. I wonder how effective this method is compared to other methods and if it really addresses the original problem.


  9. Hannah – you were not kidding about the extremely sad videos available on youtube, but in terms of Lia and others’ comments on the effects of PTSD on children, I found a more informative rather than upsetting video of an interview with a clinical psychologist. Dr. John Walker discusses the types of events that can occur to cause PTSD in children, recommended responses of those around children experiencing PTSD, as well as suggestions for treatment. The information is pretty general, but was able to answer some of my questions about children’s PTSD, so hopefully you will be able to pull some answers out of it as well.


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