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mine disaster survivors offer clues in PTSD



Brain Structure in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


Study focusing on mine disaster survivors offers clues about grey matter damage in PTSD


November 4, 2013—Wars, earthquakes, major traffic accidents, and terrorist attacks may bring about profound emotional pain, and even cause extreme fear and helplessness for people that have experienced or witnessed these unusual threats or disasters. The persistent and chronic mental disorder caused by psychological trauma is termed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The mechanisms underlying this disorder are a hot topic in psychiatry research. Fortunately, thanks to modern brain-imaging technology, it has become possible for scientists to study brain mechanisms in vivo. Using this new technology, Weihui Li and colleagues from the Second Xiangya Hospital, Central South University China, undertook to answer some important questions about how these mechanisms relate to PTSD: Is the psychological trauma that occurs when people experience major disasters associated with changes in brain structure? If so, can the brain structural damage that occurs in PTSD alter as symptoms improve?

As PTSD progresses, brain structure inevitably changes—however, no PTSD symptoms have been clearly described in previous PTSD imaging studies.

To address their questions, the researchers compared the difference in brain structure in 12 mine disaster survivors with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, 7 cases of improved post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and 14 controls who experienced the same mine disaster but did not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, using the voxel-based morphometry method. Their findings, published in the Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 26, 2013), indicate that

Understanding the brain areas highly involved in the improvement of PTSD symptoms can assist in predicting patient outcomes in PTSD, which is important due to high prevalence rates of this disorder, the authors write. "PTSD patients are at high risk for suicide, which is six times higher than the normal population."


"Brain structure in post-traumatic stress disorder: a voxel-based morphometry analysis," Tan LW, Zhang L, Qi RF, Lu GM, Li LJ, Liu J, Li WH. Neural Regeneration Research 2013;8(26):2405-2414.





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