Trauma changes the brain even in those without PTSD

  • A review of previous research has compared brain activity in those with PTSD who experienced trauma, those who experienced trauma but didn't develop PTSD, and those who never experienced trauma.
  • Those who had PTSD had differential activity in two brain regions.
  • Those who had experienced trauma had differential activity in several brain regions associated with emotional regulation, regardless of whether they'd developed PTSD.

A meta-analysis of studies reporting brain activity in individuals with a diagnosis of PTSD has revealed differences between the brain activity of individuals with PTSD and that of groups of both trauma-exposed (those who had experienced trauma but didn't have a diagnosis of PTSD) and trauma-naïve (those who hadn't experienced trauma) participants.

The critical difference between those who developed PTSD and those who experienced trauma but didn't develop PTSD lay in the basal ganglia. Specifically:

  • PTSD brains compared with trauma-exposed controls showed differentially active regions of the basal ganglia
  • trauma-exposed brains compared with trauma-naïve controls revealed differences in the right anterior insula, precuneus, cingulate and orbitofrontal cortices, all known to be involved in emotional regulation
  • PTSD brains compared with both control groups showed differences in activity in the amygdala and parahippocampal cortex.

The finding is consistent with other new evidence from the researchers, that other neuropsychiatric disorders were also associated with specific imbalances in specific brain networks.

The findings suggest that, while people who have experienced trauma may not meet the threshold for a diagnosis of PTSD, they may have similar changes within the brain, which might make them more vulnerable to PTSD if they experience a subsequent trauma.

The finding also suggests a different perspective on PTSD — that it “may not actually be abnormal or a 'disorder' but the brain's natural reaction to events and experiences that are abnormal”.


Related News

A pilot study involving 41 military veterans and 5 active-duty soldiers diagnosed with clinical levels of PTSD has found that one month of transcendental meditation produced dramatic benefits, with 37 (80%) having their symptoms reduced to below the clinical level, and 40 having a clinically sig

A laboratory study has found that sleeping after watching a trauma event reduced emotional distress and memories related to traumatic events. The laboratory study involved 65 women being shown a neutral and a traumatic video.

A randomized clinical trial of 268 active-duty personnel seeking treatment for PTSD has found that individual sessions of cognitive processing therapy were twice as effective as group sessions.

A pilot study involving 23 military veterans with PTSD found that those who received mindfulness training showed reduced PTSD symptoms, and brain changes that suggest a greater ability to shift and control attention.

An interesting new theory for PTSD suggests that the root of the problem lies in context processing problems.

Following previous research showing that having a smaller

Can you help protect yourself from the memory of traumatic events? A new study suggests that, by concentrating on concrete details as you live through the event, you can reduce the number of intrusive memories later experienced.

A study involving 520 intensive care patients who had been put on ventilators for acute lung injury (ALI), of whom 186 patients of the 275 survivors were followed up over the next two years, found that 35% of them had clinically significant symptoms of PTSD.

It certainly sounds like pseudo-science, but that's why we do science - because the weirdness of something is not a particularly good reason to dismiss it (quantum! many-universes!).

We know that emotion affects memory.


Subscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest health news