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For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Date:5/17/2013

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The study, led by Xiaodan Yan, a research fellow at NYU School of Medicine, examined "spontaneous" or "resting" brain activity in 104 veterans of combat from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars using functional MRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain. The researchers found that spontaneous brain activity in the amygdala, a key structure in the brain's "fear circuitry" that processes fearful and anxious emotions, was significantly higher in the 52 combat veterans with PTSD than in the 52 combat veterans without PTSD. The PTSD group also showed elevated brain activity in the anterior insula, a brain region that regulates sensitivity to pain and negative emotions.

Moreover, the PTSD group had lower activity in the precuneus, a structure tucked between the brain's two hemispheres that helps integrate information from the past and future, especially when the mind is wandering or disengaged from active thought. Decreased activity in the precuneus correlates with more severe "re-experiencing" symptomsthat is, when victims re-experience trauma over and over again through flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts.

Key scientific contributors include researchers at NYU School of Medicine, the University of California at San Francisco, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the VA Medical Center in San Francisco.


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Contact: Lorinda Klein
lorindaann.klein@nyumc.org
212-404-3533
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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