Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Minneapolis VA Health Care System have discovered a correlation between increased circuit activity in the right side of the brain and the debilitating flashbacks triggered by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The ability to objectively diagnose PTSD through concrete evidence of neural activity is the firststep toward effectively helping those afflicted with this severe anxiety disorder.
Using a technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG), a noninvasive measurement of magnetic fields in the brain, researchers found differences between signals in the temporal and parietooccipital right hemispheric areas of the brain in people who have PTSD. The temporal cortex is thought to be responsible for reliving experiences.
The trial involved 80 people who have confirmed PTSD, many of whom served in the military in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq; 18 people whose PTSD is in remission; and 284 healthy people.
The research, led by Apostolos Georgopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., and Brian Engdahl, Ph.D., was published in the Journal of Neural Engineering and was funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
This is a significant discovery, Georgopoulos says, because the MEG tests reveal a clear difference in circuit activity in the brains of PTSD sufferers compared with healthy people—something conventional brain scans such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs have failed to do.
Researchers say the technology also can indicate the severity of a patient’s suffering, so it could potentially be used to gauge how severely patients are affected by other brain disorders as well.