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Study shows brain damage increases possibility of PTSD

A research study of rats suffering a traumatic brain injury shows that they have a heightened risk of also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and possibly also facing a greater possibility of getting an anxiety disorder.

The researchers’ interest in conducting the study was sparked by their observations that military veterans suffering from battlefield traumatic brain injury appeared to also frequently exhibit post-traumatic stress disorder. The study was recently published in Biological Psychology.

While the study confirmed the connection, researchers are still not sure why it exists. They speculated that it either could be some mechanical cause and effect relationship, or merely an outgrowth of the fact that suffering a brain injury can be extremely frightening, putting the person under heavy stress.

Researchers learned that rats who suffered traumatic brain injuries were more prone to experiencing fear that was “inappropriately strong.” The scientists tried to study the rats in a manner which separated out the physical harm to their brains and the trauma of an emotional kind involving fear. They performed training on the rats designed to induce fear in them a full two days after the injuries to their brains took place.

There were suggestions in the data that a significant injury to the brain renders the amygdala, a brain center for learning fear, in a highly excitable state, which makes it more likely to experience high levels of fear.

The results appeared to confirm what had been observed with brain-injured military veterans, and indicated that it may be beneficial for brain-injured patients to try to avoid highly stressful events for a time immediately following their physical injury.

Source: PsychCentral, “Brain injury linked to higher risk for PTSD, anxiety disorders,” Traci Pedersen, Feb. 19, 2012

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