University of Minnesota Medical School and Minneapolis Veterans Affair Medical Center researchers have discovered a correlation between increased circuit activity in the right side of the brain and the debilitating, involuntary flashbacks triggered by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The ability to objectively diagnose PTSD through concrete evidence of neural activity, its impact and its manifestation is the first step towards effectively helping those afflicted with this severe anxiety disorder.
PTSD often stems from war, but also can be a result of exposure to any psychologically traumatic event. The disorder can manifest itself in flashbacks, recurring nightmares, anger or hyper-vigilance.
Using a technique called Magnetoencephalography (MEG), a non-invasive measurement of magnetic fields in the brain, researchers found differences between signals in the temporal and parieto-occipital right hemispheric areas of the brain among those with PTSD. The temporal cortex, in accordance with earlier findings on the effects of its electrical stimulation during brain surgery, is thought to be responsible for the re-living of past experiences.
The research is led by Apostolos Georgopoulos, MD, PhD and Brian Engdahl, PhD, members of the Brain Sciences Center at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and University of Minnesota.
The MEG tests revealed a clear difference in activity among the circuitry in the brains of PTSD sufferers in comparison to those without the condition. The findings are something conventional brain scans have failed to demonstrate.
Besides diagnosing those with PTSD, the researchers also are able to judge the severity of a patient’s suffering, which means the MEG may be able to be used to gauge the how badly patients are impacted by other brain disorders.
“Having a diagnostic exam capable of confirming post-traumatic stress disorder is critical in treating these patients properly,” Georgopoulos stated in a press release.