Flashbacks Show The Extent Of Ptsd’s Effects On The Mind
The long-term effects of PTSD are one thing, but what happens in the brain of somebody when they’re experiencing a traumatic flashback an episode where they seem to relive the traumatic event, with all of the accompanying sensations and emotions? Flashbacks are still mysterious for neurologists, because they aren’t like a regular memory the mind acts as if the trauma is happening all over again. “During a flashback,” says Clouston, “the brain acts much like it would when individuals are actually experiencing a severely traumatic event, often the most stressful and frightening event of a person’s life. Their brain turns on both brain and body pathways and activates stress response systems.” The body takes cues from those signals and enters high alert, even if there’s no threat whatsoever.
Studies have revealed that when it’s experiencing flashbacks, a person with post-traumatic stress doesn’t just seem to relive what’s happened their body actively goes through all its reactions to the event again. A study in 2016 published in Psychological Medicine, says Dr. Jain, looked at images of neural activity while patients were having flashbacks, and found that the visual cortex and the areas that control spatial and temporal awareness both showed a lot of activity.
Sean Clouston Ph.D., assistant professor, Stony Brook Medicine
Dr. Shaili Jain M.D.
Professor Israel Liberzon M.D., department head, Texas A& M College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry
Maintain Targeted Support Throughout Childhood And Adolescence
The window of opportunity for addressing underdeveloped cognitive skills may be greater than previously thought. Certain areas of the frontal lobes, responsible for making sense of social information, may be most affected by abuse between the ages of 14 to 16 , implying that the brain may be malleable and benefit from targeted interventions well into adolescence. Executive function skills mature later and over a more prolonged period than other cognitive skills , meaning that there is a long period of time during which interventions may be possible.
There is evidence that trauma-specific interventions can improve aspects of cognitive functioning well into adolescence contradicting the often-expressed view that it is difficult to support older children. Longitudinal research is still needed to clarify the exact windows during which targeted interventions may be most effective, but there is every reason to believe that improvement in discrete cognitive skills such as memory and attention is possible for most children throughout adolescence.
Traumatic Brain Injury And Ptsd
Traumatic brain injury occurs from a sudden blow or jolt to the head. Brain injury often results from a trauma, like an accident, blast or fall. Learn about the overlap in PTSD and TBI symptoms and how to cope.
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TBI occurs from a sudden blow or jolt to the head. Brain injury often occurs during some type of trauma, such as an accident, blast, or a fall. Often when people refer to TBI, they are mistakenly talking about the symptoms that occur following a TBI. Actually, a TBI is the injury, not the symptoms.
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How Trauma And Ptsd Impact The Brain
- Addiction BlogHow Trauma and PTSD Impact the Brain
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After a stressful event, its typical for people to have an emotional response. Many people experience trauma after serving in combat or living through a mass shooting or natural disaster. People can be traumatized after an event that only affects them, such as a car accident or sexual assault.
Following a traumatic event, some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder. While more than half the population is likely to experience a traumatic event at some point, only 7 to 8% of people go on to have PTSD. PTSDs effects are long-lasting and disruptive, making it challenging for people to feel safe. Many people living with PTSD also develop substance use, depression or anxiety disorders.
Understanding how traumatic events can affect you and how PTSD can change the brain allows you to get the help you need to get your life back following a traumatic situation.
How Common Is Post
Experiencing trauma is not rare as approximately 6 of every 10 men , and 5 of every 10 women will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Men are more likely to experience trauma in the form of accidents, physical assault, combat, or witness death or injury. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse.
Some people have inherited a gene from a parent who had PTSD, making them more susceptible to forming it themselves.
However, post-traumatic stress disorder can strike anyone at any time regardless of age or other demographics. No one is immune from PTSD, and as the world changes, it becomes more likely for one to experience a traumatic event that causes it.
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Provide Safe Environments And Rich Experiences That Stimulate And Enrich Brain Growth
Cognitive development will be supported by stable caregiving. Continuous and nurturing caregiving will support brain development by fostering psychological safety. The experience of psychological safety reduces the need to be engaged in constant vigilance, enabling children to make the most of learning and development opportunities. There are often barriers to children in care experiencing psychological safety. It is important not to equate physical safety with psychological safety, which may take time to develop. Children may not experience psychological safety when first placed in care due to belief that adults are dangerous. Out-of-home care environments may also inadvertently undermine psychological safety . Children placed with people whose behaviour is frightening or dangerous may not experience the necessary psychological safety, and their capacity for new learning will be diminished.
How Does Trauma Affect The Brain
When we experience a traumatic event, our brain chemistry and functioning changes in response to the emotional and physical consequences of that event.
Traumatic events include a wide range of experiences, including:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Death of a loved one
- Financial, professional, or personal loss
There is no standard definition of a traumatic experience for everyone, and each of these experiences takes a unique toll on us as individuals. While all of us experience traumatic stress in different ways, our brains process stress in mostly predictable patterns. In general, there are three major areas of our brain that are shaped by stressful experiences. These are:
- The hippocampus, which helps control memory, learning, and interpretation of information. This area of the brain may become less active under stress and, in fact, may actually shrink. This shrinkage reduces the amount of information and memories we can effectively process at one time. In addition, a smaller and less active hippocampus means we are less likely to be able to process any new information when we are experiencing traumatic stress.
- The amygdala, which helps us process our emotions. During periods of intense stress, the amygdalas role in the brain is to serve as an alarm system, alerting the rest of the brain to potential risk. While this is useful in life-or-death situations, the amygdala can be triggered by traumatic stress, too, causing the brain to enter fight-or-flight mode over and over again.
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Is Emotional Trauma A Brain Injury
According to recent studies, Emotional Trauma and PTSD do cause both brain and physical damage. Neuropathologists have seen overlapping effects of physical and emotional trauma upon the brain. With such an overlap it can be seen that both of these traumas have a detrimental effect upon the Amygdala, the Hippocampus and the Prefrontal cortex of the brain. Meaning that Emotional Trauma or PTSD does indeed result in brain injury/damage.
Unconventional Electroencephalography Analysis Approaches
Non-Linear Electroencephalography Dynamics
Examining relationships in brain activity between and within electrodes over time can highlight whether electrical complexity and connectivity between cortical regions are disrupted as a function of trauma. Compared to PTSD without trauma exposure, civilian PTSD+ show higher connectivity within the left hemisphere but lower connectivity within the right hemisphere this pattern is thought to reflect attenuated neural processing complexity in the right compared to the left hemisphere . Another study used non-linear modeling to determine that civilian PTSD+ exhibit lower complexity than PTSD without trauma exposure in several electrode locations, most within the right hemisphere . These findings point to right hemisphere dysfunction in PTSD consistent with alpha band asymmetry results. A recent study also demonstrates that PTSD+ exhibit reduced functional connectivity within delta, theta, and beta bands than PTSD without a trauma history EEG source analysis localized one connectivity metric to a right centroparietal region, with lower connectivity linked to higher IES-R PTSD symptoms . These results point to the importance of investigating information processing impairments in brain networks as well as specific brain regions in the study of psychopathology more generally and PTSD symptoms in particular.
Final Thoughts About Ptsd And Memory Function
Many people with PTSD have thought that there is just no cure for the disease. Today that is a myth in the medical profession. The brain is a marvelous organ of the body. Damaged areas of the brain can learn to function normally once again. Light and sound therapy can improve some patients outcomes. There are also many prescription medications for use with brain injuries. Keep in mind these drugs come with a risk of side effects. Some of the best advice I can offer is the use of natural remedies, with proper diet and exercise. One might follow up with group therapy so that the injury is not stuffed away but dealt with properly.Once again I would like to thank Paula for asking me to do an in-depth post for her website. I had a bit of a challenge writing for you with all the medical jargon involved. Make sure you leave comments to us on what you thought of the post. That way we can continue to improve the articles moving forward.
What Are The Effects Of Ptsd On The Brain
The effects of PTSD on the brain seem to suggest that there is a biological basis for the symptoms of this disorder. Scientists believe that the experience of extreme psychological trauma may cause physical changes in the brain. It may be possible, however, that inherent differences in brain structure and function make some people vulnerable to PTSD. The effects of PTSD on the brain occur mostly in the amygdala, a part of the brain that helps control emotions. The hippcampus, prefrontal lobe, and prefrontal cortex may suffer damage due to traumatic experiences, and some experts believe that the effects of PTSD on the brain include changes in the way the brain uses certain neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline.
Many sufferers of PTSD experience a numbed emotional state following the onset of symptoms. Experts believe this may be due to increased levels of the neurotransmitters responsible for the relief of pain. The effects of PTSD on the brain can also include a decreased ability to use the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is generally responsible for feelings of well-being. This could explain why depressed feelings often accompany PTSD.
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Limits Of The Research
Very little research has explored the link between trauma and cognitive development, or the interventions that might be effective in helping affected children. Some of the reasons for this include:
- methodological and conceptual issues in defining and monitoring the impact of trauma
- the absence of a suitable measure for assessing outcomes of interventions for children in care and
- the need to better integrate neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies into a program of research that tracks cognitive development over time.
Research in this area is conceptually under-developed. Attempts to tease out the effects of different subtypes of abuse and trauma on brain development have been inconclusive . This is unsurprising, as many children will have experienced multiple forms of abuse and neglect. Despite this, the research has typically used abuse subtypes as selection criteria.
There is also a lack of rigorous evaluation of interventions for affected children. One reason for this is that there is no single measure or screening tool that can capture the full range of cognitive and behavioural difficulties found among children in care . This makes it difficult for services to capture the cognitive difficulties that children experience and evaluate whether cognitive interventions4 lead to an improvement in children’s functioning.
How Ptsd And Trauma Affect Your Brain Functioning
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The horrors of war have disturbed the minds of many young men and gave birth to the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder , a mental health condition caused by a traumatic event that was either experienced or witnessed.
In recent decades, psychologists and neuroscientists have expanded their understanding of the effects of trauma on the brain and discovered that soldiers are not the only victims of the condition.
The trigger for PTSD can be any life-threatening incident, and most people suffering from the condition are undiagnosed.
Trauma affects the brain, and the consequences include difficulties adjusting to social life, in extreme cases, and the inability for self-care.
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How Might Ptsd Affect The Hippocampus
Some studies suggest that constant stress may damage the hippocampus. When we experience stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol, which is helpful in mobilizing the body to respond to a stressful event. Some animal studies, though, show that high levels of cortisol may play a role in damaging or destroying cells in the hippocampus.
While cortisol is released in higher amounts when a person is under a great deal of stress, either chronically or acutely, this process is actually more complicated than just elevated cortisol. The increase in cortisol also signals the immune system, which releases inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which in turn can activate cells called microglia. These in turn switch from production of serotonin to a higher production of glutamate, a very important excitatory neurotransmitter that, if present in excessive amounts, can lead to brain cell damage or death. Such a constant barrage of higher glutamate levels may be what damages the hippocampus.
Antidepressants such as SSRI’s and SNRI’s help to block the transport of these inflammatory cytokines across the blood-brain barrier.
Researchers have also looked at the size of the hippocampus in people with and without PTSD. They have found that people who have severe, chronic cases of PTSD have smaller hippocampi . This indicates that experiencing ongoing stress as a result of severe and chronic PTSD may ultimately damage the hippocampus, making it smaller.
Electroencephalography Measured In Frequency And Time: What Is The Difference
EEG signals represent relative electrical potentials acquired over time at sensors placed on the scalp while an individual is in an uncontrolled resting state or an active task session. EEG signals can then be extracted for data analysis in the frequency domain, illustrated in Figure 1, and/or the time domain, illustrated in Figure 2. The spectral composition, or power spectrum, of the signal is then estimated using various fast Fourier transform algorithms. The most common metric employed in analysis is power within a particular frequency band. Differences in power between hemispheres are also quantified by calculating an asymmetry score metric. Additionally, peak frequency values within a band and connectivity can be quantified. EEG data are typically analyzed in the time domain by time-locking electrical signals elicited to a particular stimulus or response and then averaging these time-locked signals over multiple trials to produce an event related potential , which amplifies signals to an event while cancelling out random noise present on individual trials. We review trauma and PTSD literature for frequency and time domains separately below. On the whole, most EEG studies within this literature record data from low-density electrode montages, limiting spatial resolution of signals beyond anterior versus posterior, or frontal, central, temporal, and parietal versus occipital scalp locations.
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The Hippocampus’ Role In Ptsd
Many people with PTSD experience memory-related difficulties. They may have difficulty recalling certain parts of their traumatic event. Alternatively, some memories may be vivid and always present for these individuals.
People with PTSD may also have problems overcoming their fear response to thoughts, memories or situations that are reminiscent of their traumatic event. Due to the hippocampus’ role in memory and emotional experience, it is thought that some of the problems people with PTSD experience may lie in the hippocampus.
How Ptsd Affects The Brain
If youre experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder , its important to understand how the different parts of your brain function. Post-traumatic stress is a normal response to traumatic events. However, PTSD is a more serious condition that impacts brain function, and it often results from traumas experienced during combat, disasters, or violence.
Your brain is equipped with an alarm system that normally helps ensure your survival. With PTSD, this system becomes overly sensitive and triggers easily. In turn, the parts of your brain responsible for thinking and memory stop functioning properly. When this occurs, its hard to separate safe events happening now from dangerous events that happened in the past.
Over the past 40 years, scientific methods of neuroimaging have enabled scientists to see that PTSD causes distinct biological changes in your brain. Not everybody with PTSD has exactly the same symptoms or the same brain changes, but there are observable patterns that can be understood and treated.
The diagram shows a cross-section of the brain parts discussed here.
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