Could Occupation Help PTSD?

After our talk about PTSD and depression I started to wonder about preventative measures or if there was a way to reverse effects.  The literature seems to agree that small hippocampal size, whether it be a cause or effect of PTSD, plays a key role in this disorder.  Considering the size of the hippocampus made me think of another topic we briefly touched upon: London taxi cab drivers.  What if you take someone with PTSD and therefore a small hippocampus and make them become a cab driver?  Would their hippocampal size increase?  Would any of the negative symptoms diminish?

There are a lot of factors that come into play here and I am pretty sure the solution would not be so simple.  Hippocampal growth and apathy in cab drivers and PTSD patients are lateralized and the area that atrophies during PTSD may not be the same as the area that increases during cab driving.  Another issue is whether or not the smaller hippocampuses could even increase.  Perhaps the damage suffered is too great to show any recovery.  One of the final issues that may be problematic is that increase in size may not affect the glucocorticoid levels; too much secretion could still occur and create stress-related problems.

There are many potential factors that would prevent this idea from working, but I thought it was an interesting concept.  Overall the main questions seem to be:

1. Can the hippocampuses of PTSD patients increase?

2. Would increasing the hippocampal size matter or is the damage already done?

I found one study that shows that long-term treatment of paroxetine can increase verbal declarative memory and hippocampal size in PTSD patients, but cab driving is a little different than drug administration and I’m not convinced the effects would be as robust.  Anyway, this was just a thought I had, let me know what you guys think!



One thought on “Could Occupation Help PTSD?

  1. Hey Kelsey –
    I also thought about the London cab drivers! The post I made for this week talks about exercise inducing hippocampal neurogenesis; maybe a workout schedule could be part of an effective treatment for PTSD. However, we also talked in class about how very complex the hippocampus is, so it’s quite possible that the neurogenesis catalyzed by exercise occurs in a separate part of the structure than the area affected by PTSD. I guess that didn’t clear anything up… 🙂


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