What Part Of The Brain Does Ptsd Affect – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that can develop as a result of witnessing or experiencing emotionally distressing or painful situations. According to the National PTSD Center, 8 million people in the United States suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year (2017). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur as a result of directly experiencing the event, or as a result of indirectly experiencing the event, recounting the experience, or witnessing someone else go through the trauma. Professionals who experience significant distress through frequent exposure to indirect, secondary traumatic events (eg, law enforcement officers, counselors, medical personnel) sometimes experience transformations of their own that affect their emotions and cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This transformation is called local trauma.
Pain alone after a traumatic event does not guarantee a diagnosis. More than half of Americans experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, but only 7-8% of them suffer from the disorder (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017). The type and severity of PTSD symptoms varies from person to person. The four main signs and symptoms of PTSD are intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in mood or thoughts, and changes in physical and emotional responses (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Some specific symptoms:
What Part Of The Brain Does Ptsd Affect
A comprehensive list of official diagnostic criteria can be found in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (also known as DSM-5).
Three Ways That Trauma Affects Your Brain
PTSD can be debilitating, causing problems with a person’s productivity, relationships and mental health. In many cases, psychological trauma lasts longer than a lifetime and has a detrimental effect on physical health; cuts, scrapes, breaks, and bruises are definitely painful, but eventually heal. In contrast, psychological trauma can last from a month to a lifetime. This disease is not a sign of weakness, but a biological condition that affects men and women of all cultural, socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. In severe cases of PTSD, changes are seen in the brain, particularly in areas such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala, which play an important role, especially in areas of the brain responsible for cognition, memory, and response to stimuli. The figure below shows the areas of the brain and their main functions that have been found to be most affected by PTSD.
Known as the “emotion center,” the amygdala plays a key role in regulating emotions, memory, and activating survival instincts. When the body is exposed to potentially harmful stimuli in the environment, the amygdala responds by alerting the body to fight, flight or freeze. For example, if a bee lands on a little boy’s shoulder, he has three options: he can run away in hopes of escaping the insect, he can follow the bee, or he can stay still until the bee flies away. The boy didn’t have time to consider all three options and their consequences, and his amygdala allowed him to act efficiently without much thought. When a person is stressed, the amygdala releases a chemical called norepinephrine, which increases activity levels, causing an increased heart rate and a heightened state of arousal. People with PTSD often have an overactive amygdala, which causes more norepinephrine to enter the body. An overdose of norepinephrine can cause a person to produce too much adrenaline, impairing a person’s ability to be logical and think effectively. Damage to the amygdala inhibits the ability to experience fear (Aggleton, 2000). Unlike an overactive amygdala, which can lead to impulsive behavior, an overactive amygdala can be problematic because a person is less likely to respond appropriately when faced with danger.
Another area of the brain that is altered in people with chronic PTSD is the “executive function center,” the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which, along with the amygdala, regulates emotions and behavior. It plays an important role in goal attainment, abstract thinking, self-control, and initiation of behavior. A normal brain has a PFC that counteracts hyperexcitability in the amygdala, but brains with PTSD typically have a less active PFC. Research shows that patients with PTSD often have reduced volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area that plays an important role in regulating emotions and inhibiting impulsive behavior (Maynard, 2020). This explains why individuals with PTSD feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, even when they are not actually in danger.
The hippocampus, along with the prefrontal cortex, plays a role in stress and fear regulation. This area also plays an important role in cognition, learning, perception and memory retrieval. When a person experiences trauma, it can be caused by circumstances similar to the scene of the incident. This spatial association is largely driven by the hippocampus, which helps distinguish between the present and the past. When people feel stressed, the hypothalamus releases the hormone cortisol, which helps regulate the stress response. However, high levels of cortisol are thought to damage hippocampal cells, as seen in animal studies. Brain scans show that chronic stress in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients damages the hippocampus, reducing its size and function (Tull, 2019). Due to a smaller hippocampus, traumatized individuals may have difficulty trying to recall past events and distinguish past stressful experiences from current situations. Reduced hippocampal volume helps explain why watching a movie set on a beach can cause anxiety and fear in shark attack victims.
Brain Circuit Dysfunction In Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: From Mouse To Man
Understanding the neuroscience involved in mental disorders, especially PTSD, can help understand and help loved ones with mental disorders. In addition, more effective treatment can be provided when specialists know the areas of the brain that need additional stimulation or inhibition. There are many different things you can do to help reduce your PTSD symptoms. The six most common and effective treatments (Bhandari, 2017):
Professionals are reluctant to suggest that PTSD can be cured, as there is always the possibility of reoccurrence of previously experienced symptoms (“Can PTSD be cured?”, 2020). Nevertheless, PTSD can be managed, and the impact of symptoms can be reduced with treatment. It is important for people with PTSD to know that recovery is possible and that PTSD does not have to control your life.
Toole, M. (2019). How damage to the brain’s hippocampus affects post-traumatic stress disorder. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-effect-of-ptsd-on-the-brain-2797643 Research reveals the changes and functions that occur in the brain when a person experiences the long-term effects of trauma. Trauma occurs when the flight or fight response is prolonged due to a highly distressing or frightening event, such as a natural disaster, physical assault, or car accident. Here are the main brain structures involved in trauma and how they are affected.
The hippocampus is deeply embedded in time, mediates the storage and retrieval of memories, and distinguishes between past and present experiences. During trauma, the nervous system is activated and stress hormones are constantly elevated, which damages cells in the hippocampus and makes it difficult to store or recall memories. Shrinking of the hippocampus makes people unable to distinguish between past and present experiences. A person cannot distinguish between past memories and current situations. An environment similar to the one in which the trauma occurred can lead to panic, fear and aggression. Because they don’t know if the threat has passed, the person remains on high alert and goes into reactive mode. Hypervigilance causes an increase in stress hormones, making it difficult for the body to regulate itself.
How Trauma Affects The Brain
The PFC (prefrontal cortex) or thinking center is located near the top of the head, behind the forehead. It is responsible for such abilities as rational thinking, problem solving, personality, planning, empathy, understanding of self and others. When this area of the brain is strong, we can think clearly, make good decisions, and understand ourselves and others. The PFC helps suppress negative emotions and plays an important role in personal and social decision making. Trauma causes the prefrontal cortex to shrink and atrophy, affecting the ability to think, plan, and connect with others while increasing fear and other negative emotions.
The ACC (anterior cingulate cortex) or emotion regulation center is located near the prefrontal cortex but deep in the brain. This area is (partially) responsible for emotion regulation and (ideally) has close working connections with the prefrontal cortex.
The amygdala is a threat detector. Its main task is to take in all the information it receives – everything you see, hear, touch, smell and taste – and answer one question: “Is this a threat?” “Because of the injury, its size increases. An overactive amygdala can cause negative mood swings, extreme fear reactions, and avoidance of anything associated with trauma.
The good news is that these changes can be reversed with psychotherapy, often combined with medication. Brain wiring is plastic. Trauma affects the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. Persistent trauma is associated with “long-term changes in these brain regions” (Bremmer, 2006).
Healing Your Brain After Loss: How Grief Rewires The Brain
When there is a potential threat, the amygdala immediately sends a message to the hippocampus, activating the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is an unconscious system that regulates bodily functions such as digestion, breathing, and heart rate. If we
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