2 studies: PTSD is chemical change in brain

By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Dec 10, 2009 6:26:52 EST

Two new studies seem to provide more evidence that post-traumatic stress disorder is a chemical change in the brain caused by trauma — and that it might be possible to diagnose, treat and predict susceptibility to it based on brain scans or blood tests.  In one study, Christine Marx, of the Duke University Medical Center and Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, wondered why PTSD, depression and pain often occur together.  Researchers already knew that people with PTSD show changes in their neurosteroids, which are brain chemicals thought to play a role in how the body responds to stress.  Previous animal studies showed that blood neurosteroid levels correlated to brain neurosteroid levels, so Marx measured the blood neurosteroid levels of 90 male Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. She found that the neurosteroid levels correlated to symptom severity in PTSD, depression and pain issues, and that those levels might be used to predict how a person reacts to therapy as well as to help develop new therapies.  Marx is researching treatment for people with traumatic brain injuries using the same kind of brain chemical, and early results show that increasing a person’s neurosteroid level decreases his PTSD symptoms.  read more

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