Monday, June 9, 2014

Scans Show Veterans with PTSD Hyperarousal

PTSD won't let go so you have to force it to move. You are not stuck the way you are today. Take care of your body and your spirit as well as your mind and change again.
PTSD: Scans reveal soldiers’ brains stay in hyper-aroused state
The Globe and Mail
Jun. 08 2014

Almost a century ago, soldiers returned from the First World War as changed men. They had obvious but sometimes invisible injuries: depression, flashbacks, recurrent memories, emotional and physical distress. The term coined for this phenomenon – shell shock – applied in physical and psychological cases, and while medical researchers endeavoured to understand the condition, it was seen by some as merely lack of character. In fact, hundreds of “shell-shocked” British soldiers were executed for cowardice and desertion (it wasn’t until 2006 that their families were notified they would receive posthumous pardons).

Warfare evolved, and along with it the terminology around the condition. Shell shock became “combat fatigue” in the Second World War, and then “operational stress injury.” But the stigma surrounding the injury endured.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a significant issue in the Canadian military. According to a report from the Library of Parliament, one in 10 veterans released between 1998 and 2007 were diagnosed with PTSD. The figure rose to 24 per cent when other mental health illnesses were considered, including depression and bipolar disorder.

Treatment is offered to current and former soldiers, but the military’s mental health services are strained. When symptoms become chronic, soldiers and veterans often have trouble working and face higher risks of alcohol abuse, drug addiction, run-ins with the law and suicide.
The enterprising research began when Pang Shek, senior scientist at Defence Research and Development Canada (an arm of the Department of National Defence), conceived the idea of using magnetoencephalography technology to assess PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). He helped secure funding and put together a team of researchers from SickKids, the Canadian Forces Health Services and the United States Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Dr. Paul Sedge, clinical leader for mental health at the Canadian Forces Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centre in Ottawa, personally recruited 50 soldiers under the age of 40, 25 of whom had a PTSD diagnosis and 25 of whom did not, for the brain-imaging experiment.

The men were shown combat-related words and images to test their speed of information processing and memory recall. Then a magnetoencephalography (MEG) machine, a sophisticated neuroimaging tool that looks like an old-fashioned, salon-style hair dryer, measured their responses to stimuli.

“The brain scans of the two groups showed huge differences in how the men with and without PTSD processed the images,” said an elated Dr. Margot Taylor, director of functional neuroimaging in the Department of Diagnostic Imaging at SickKids.

“We could see heightened arousal that was maintained in the PTSD-afflicted men, and not in the men who don’t suffer from the illness. The reality is those with PTSD can’t let it go. Their brains stay in a hyper-aroused state,” Taylor said.
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