Study holds clue to gauging trauma resiliency

By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 31, 2009 10:22:46 EDT

A study may offer a tantalizing clue to identifying which service members may be particularly resilient to trauma and stress — and which ones may not be.
One of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is a “reduced capacity for reward” — meaning nothing seems exciting. Amusement park? Not interested. Beautiful day? Heavy sigh. Friday night date with the spouse? Please.
Researchers from the government’s National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and at Fort Bragg, N.C., wanted to see if those who have a “robust reward function” might be more resilient to stress — and if they could pick that up on a brain scan.
In the study, detailed in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, the researchers gathered 11 Special Forces soldiers at Fort Bragg who had been exposed to trauma but had not developed PTSD and took them to the National Institute for Mental Health to perform some tests alongside 11 civilians who had no symptoms of mental health issues and no history of experiencing trauma.
Both groups had similar IQ scores.
Each person performed a task on a computer: If a particular image popped up, they were to push a button as quickly as they could. But before each group of images, they were told the stakes:


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