Research on PTSD
Current research on PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) focuses on the effects of previous trauma and brain anatomy and function in the development of the condition. Other studies are examining the role of hormones and neurotransmitters, which are involved in memories of emotionally charged events. Ongoing research may someday lead to the discovery of drugs or psychosocial treatments that could block the development of symptoms.
Research is continuing to reveal factors that may lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Areas of PTSD research include:
- The effects of previous traumatic events
- Brain anatomy and function
- Hormones and neurotransmitters.
People who have been abused as children or who have had other previous traumatic experiences are more likely to develop PTSD.
It was previously believed that people who tended to be emotionally numb after a trauma were showing a healthy response; but now, some researchers suspect that people who experience this emotional distancing may be more prone to PTSD.
Studies in animals and humans have focused on pinpointing the specific areas of the brain and circuits involved in anxiety and fear, which are important for understanding anxiety disorders such as PTSD.
Fear, an emotion that evolved to deal with danger, causes an automatic, rapid protective response in many systems of the body. It has been found that the fear response is coordinated by a small structure deep inside the brain, called the amygdala. The amygdala, although relatively small, is a highly complicated structure, and recent research suggests that different anxiety disorders may be associated with abnormal activation of the amygdala.