"In the modern industrialized world with war, terrorism, traffic accidents and other terrible things that happen in the world, people are overexposed to life threats and it's not particularly helpful or adaptive to be heavily traumatized by that," said Marmar. "But this study has some significant limitations, including a small sample size, a heterogeneous patient population, and lack of information about whether the controls were trauma controls or not."
Marmar also pointed out that the brain's complexity makes drawing conclusions from such a small study impossible.
"It's definitely true that the prefrontal cortex modulates the emotional value associated with memories, but it's not necessarily true that it suppresses the actual memories," Marmar said.
Agarwal also cautioned against drawing premature conclusions from the study, but believes the research might lead to more empathy for those with mental disorders and possible future treatments.
"When patients are depressed sometimes there is a reason, and a vacation or something won't help," said Agarwal. "The next step is how can we make things better."
There's more on psychiatric disorders at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: Nivedita Agarwal, M.D., radiology resident, University of Udine, Italy, and research fellow, Brain Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Charles Marmar, M.D., chief of mental health services at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and vice chair, department of psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Dec. 3, 2008, presentation, Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, Chicago
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