Researchers at the University of North Carolina Health Care explored how defensive brain responses to events of stress and trauma increase PTSD risk. The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
As part of the national Advancing Understanding of RecOvery afteR traumA (AURORA) Study, the researchers surveyed brain activity and behavioral responses in individuals two weeks following a traumatic event.
They used brain-imaging techniques and laboratory and survey-based tests to understand the link between hippocampal activity and the risk of PTSD.
The results revealed that low hippocampal activity and strong brain responses to traumatic stress increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Individuals experiencing these brain conditions are more likely to develop symptoms of severe forms of PTSD like destructive self-harm, chronic insomnia, nightmares, reckless behavior, angry outbursts, etc. The study also provided insights into how people form and retrieve memories after events of stress and trauma.
One of the lead researchers, Vishnu Murty, elaborated: “These findings are important both to identify specific brain responses associated with vulnerability to develop PTSD, and to identify potential treatments focused on memory processes for these individuals to prevent or treat PTSD.”
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Tanriverdi, B., Gregory, D. F., Olino, T. M., Ely, T. D., Harnett, N. G., van Rooij, S., Lebois, L., Seligowski, A. V., Jovanovic, T., Ressler, K. J., House, S. L., Beaudoin, F. L., An, X., Neylan, T. C., Clifford, G. D., Linnstaedt, S. D., Germine, L. T., Bollen, K. A., Rauch, S. L., Haran, J. P., … Murty, V. P. (2022). Hippocampal Threat Reactivity Interacts with Physiological Arousal to Predict PTSD Symptoms. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, JN-RM-0911-21. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0911-21.2022