By Debbie Gregory.
Military members coming home, preparing to transition back to civilian status, are certainly familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but more research is still needed to understand how it affects individuals, and how to better treat it.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has recently published their plans to establish a program to follow participants diagnosed with PTSD throughout their life. With permission, health records will be kept, and then upon the participants’ death, brain and other body tissue will be donated to the program for further analysis.
“Although we have learned a great deal about abnormalities in brain structure and function from brain imaging research, there is no substitute for looking at the neurons themselves,” said consortium director Dr. Matthew Friedman. He added, “Understanding the cellular and circuit contributions to abnormal brain activity in PTSD is critical in the search for potential biomarkers of susceptibility, illness and treatment response and for developing new treatments targeting the conditions at the cellular level.”
VA medical centers treated 533,720 patients diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 alone. This ranks third as the most prevalent psychiatric diagnosis among veterans utilizing VA hospitals. Additionally, it is estimated that 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment.
A considerable amount of research has found that trauma has negative effects on physical health. While there may not be specific evidence in every patient, veterans diagnosed with PTSD have been known to have greater risks to develop other health issues, including alcoholism, depression, suicide, and even hypertension.
What is evident, though, is that there is a correlation between biological and psychological mechanisms. This is where Dr. Friedman’s consortium may lend more evidence, and therefore, more effective treatments and therapies.
Facilities participating in the consortium are located at VA medical centers in Boston, MA, San Antonio, TX, West Haven, CT, and White River Junction, VT, along with the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences at Bethesda, MD (USUHS). Veterans interested in learning more about enrolling in the brain bank are encouraged to call, toll-free, 800-762-6609 or visit the website.
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VA Leads PTSD Brain Bank Research Consortium: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory