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Researchers discover a way to objectively identify PTSD

University of Minnesota and Minneapolis VA Medical Center researchers have identified a biological marker in the brains of people exhibiting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The research, published January 20 in the Journal of Neural Engineering, used a noninvasive technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure magnetic fields in the brain. The technology appears to be able to objectively diagnose the disease—something conventional brain scans such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs have failed to do.

With more than 90 percent accuracy, researchers were able to differentiate people who have PTSD from control subjects using MEG. They also were able to judge the severity of a person’s disease.

The MEG technology has 248 sensors that record neural interactions in the brain millisecond-by-millisecond, much faster than current methods of evaluation such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, which takes seconds to record.

“These findings document robust differences in brain function between the PTSD and control groups that can be used for differential diagnosis and which possess the potential for assessing and monitoring disease progression and effects of therapy,” says Apostolos Georgopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study with Brian Engdahl, Ph.D.

The ability to objectively diagnose PTSD is the first step toward helping those afflicted with this severe anxiety disorder. PTSD often stems from war but can result from exposure to any psychologically traumatic event.

Georgopoulos’s and Engdahl’s success in detecting PTSD using MEG follows success in detecting other brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, using MEG.

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