Research Suggests a Physical Component to PTSD
As a psychiatrist at the Wyandot Center in Kansas City, Kansas, Dr. Christie Mensch provides outpatient treatment to patients with a variety of mental health challenges. Dr. Christie Mensch possesses experience in the treatment of mental and emotional distress related to trauma.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, occurs when a person is exposed to life-threatening or extremely dangerous events. For patients with the condition, the lingering effects lead to a complex set of emotional challenges, including anxiety and flashbacks.
New research from UC San Diego Health suggests that in addition to these psychological experiences, PTSD may cause structural changes in the brain. The study involved brain scans of 89 current or former military service personnel, 29 of whom had received diagnoses of significant PTSD.
Scans of these 29 individuals revealed amygdalae that were 6 percent larger than those of their peers without PTSD. Because the amygdala is responsible for emotional control, including the mediation of fear, an enlargement of this structure may explain the link between PTSD and an exaggerated fear response.
Researchers are not sure whether the enlarged amygdala existed before the traumatic event, thus priming the individuals for the development of PTSD, or if the trauma caused the brain to restructure itself and strengthen its fear-processing center.
The study team hopes to follow up on this data and see if the findings can be replicated in other populations. If so, researchers suggest the results may prompt the development of new PTSD screenings based on amygdala size.