November 11, 2009

Promising PTSD and TBI research holds hope for better treating injured veterans

On this Veteran's Day, here's a salute to all the veterans and active military service members out there. In the shadow of the horrific events at Fort Hood, this day of commemoration takes on a particular poignancy.

Here at Workers Comp Insider, we have a tendency to view things through the lens of dis-ability and the restoration work-ability because that's the nature of what it is that we do. So we were particularly intrigued to read about new research that is offering hope to unlock some of the secrets of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), two of the most frequent and debilitating types of injuries sustained in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Powerful new scanning techniques are allowing doctors to see how the brain changes with such injuries, and doctors are learning that there are many similarities in these injuries, including symptoms like memory and attention problems, anxiety, irritability, depression and insomnia. This leads researchers to believe that the two disorders share brain regions.

"A brain processing system that includes the amygdala -- the fear hot spot -- becomes overactive. Other regions important for attention and memory, regions that usually moderate our response to fear, are tamped down.

"The good news is this neural signal is not permanent. It can change with treatment," Hayes says.

Her lab performed MRI scans while patients either tried to suppress their negative memories, or followed PTSD therapy and changed how they thought about their trauma. That fear-processing region quickly cooled down when people followed the PTSD therapy.

It's work that has implications far beyond the military: About a quarter of a million Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. Anyone can develop it after a terrifying experience, from a car accident or hurricane to rape or child abuse."

These physical signs that tests are revealing hold the potential to greatly enhance a physician's ability to accurately diagnose and treat PTSD - an illness that is often unrecognized and untreated. While there is heightened awareness of PTSD, it can be difficult to diagnose and there are limitations for establishing accurate prevalence rates.

Additional Resources on PTSD and TBI
National Center for PTSD - with resources for veterans, the general public, providers, and researchers
Veterans: where to get help for PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - from the National Institute of Mental Health
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Gateway
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Defense Center
Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page - from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Traumatic Brain Injury - from the CDC


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1 Comment

In addition to PTSD, many vets suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)without knowing it. Here is a free and confidential assessment tool: http://www.hfsc-vetsoutreach.org/vop_01.asp. Resource and treatment referrals are available nationwide.

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This page contains a single entry by Julie Ferguson published on November 11, 2009 2:05 PM.

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