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Monday, November 12, 2012

PTSD Research Honors All Veterans

Today is Veterans Day. Many will honor our Veterans by participating in community events, volunteering at a Veterans Administration hospital, visiting a cemetery to honor the fallen, or reaching out to thank Veterans for their years of service. There will be a few who really don't know the history of Veterans Day.
"On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be 'filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory'".
We sometimes confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

PTSD research is another way to honor our Veterans

It may seem odd to consider scientific research as an honor to our Veterans, but when you think about this it is true. Many scientist work tirelessly to perfect research in the field of medicine to discover new ways to save lives on the battlefield discovering new surgical techniques and procedures to immediately react to the visible wounds. However, just as many research scientist work to study the invisible wounds like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Many people often wonder why some people are affected by PTSD and others are not. Perhaps even in our own families we have wondered about this, recognizing that brothers and sisters will volunteer for service and one or more may return with PTSD and the others do not.

New study looks at brain anatomy as it relates to PTSD

On November 5, 2012, the results of a new study were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry: Amygdala Volume Changes in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in a Large Case-Controlled Veterans Group.  Here are some details of the study:
  • The lead author was Dr. Rajendra Morey, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University
  • The setting for this study was the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • 200 patients, all combat veterans, were studied. All had served in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 
  • 99, roughly one-half, of the patients had a current diagnosis of PTSD
  • 100 of the patients had also been exposed to trauma, but did not have a diagnosis of PTSD
  • The authors also controlled statistically for the important potential confounds of alcohol us, depression, and medication use. 

The study's findings

According to the Courier Journal article, the study indicated:
"In combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, the area of the brain that controls fear and anxiety responses is much smaller than normal, according to a new study. The finding is the first to provide evidence that a smaller amygdala is associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it's not clear whether this smaller size is caused by PTSD or whether people with a smaller amygdala are more likely to develop PTSD."

One step closer...

Research is like most things in life...it happens one step at a time.  As Dr. Morey points out in the study's conclusions: Our results may trigger a renewed impetus for investigating structural differences in the amygdala, its genetic determinants, its environmental modulators, and the possibility that it reflects an intrinsic vulnerability to PTSD.

Learn a bit more about Veterans Day from The History Channel 

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

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