Disaster, Response, and Recovery
Brain Function in Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Findings from Functional Neuroimaging Studies
Friday, May 25, 2012,
10:30 AM - 11:10 AM
Over the past two decades, researchers in the field of psychiatric neuroscience have implemented neuroimaging techniques to study brain structure and function in the anxiety disorders, including PTSD. The overarching goal of this research is to elucidate the pathophysiology of PTSD and hence to possibly lead to more targeted treatments and enhanced prediction of treatment response. This presentation will review the findings of abnormalities in amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in PTSD. We will discuss whether these functional brain abnormalities are likely to be a result of trauma exposure alone. We will also explore whether functional abnormalities at baseline can help to predict treatment response and whether such abnormalities resolve with treatment. Our most recent research aims to determine whether functional abnormalities in PTSD are acquired signs of the disorder or familial vulnerability factors that increase the risk of PTSD following trauma. In a study of identical twins, we are finding that exaggerated dorsal anterior cingulate cortex activity appears to be a familial risk factor for PTSD. Future studies will help to determine how this and other biological markers are related to genetic polymorphisms. In general, if biologic markers are proven to be reliable indicators of vulnerability, they could be used in the future to screen individuals who are at high risk for trauma exposure (e.g., those beginning service in firefighting, the military, or police).