Summary: Quite like in other mental health disorders, the diagnosis of PTSD is mainly clinical, and there is no reliable objective test to evaluate disease severity. In a new study, researchers used fMRI brain scans of those who have PTSD. They found that the hippocampal activity of those who have PTSD is subdued.
These findings may help find a better way to diagnose and monitor treatment progress in the future.
PTSD is a pretty common problem. However, some individuals are at a greater risk of developing the condition due to genetics.
It is about past experiences haunting you all the time. People with PTSD struggle to get rid of past unpleasant memories and have altered emotional responses. Prolonged PTSD may also increase the risk of other mental health issues.
Quite like other mental health problems, doctors diagnose the condition through history taking and analyzing various signs and symptoms.
However, diagnosing most mental health issues, including PTSD, remains challenging due to the absence of objective tests.
It means that doctors have difficulty understanding the severity of the condition. They also struggle to monitor the progress of the treatment.
If we need to improve the treatment of the conditions like PTSD or even other mental health disorders, we need to find better ways to diagnose and understand these issues.
In recent years, researchers have been making slow progress in the right direction. Some of the tests, like fMRI, have now allowed measuring the activity of various brain centers.
In addition, it means that researchers can now picture their patients more clearly, which will also help them provide better treatment.
A new study in this direction shows altered hippocampal activity in those living with PTSD.
The hippocampus is a region of the brain that plays an important role in memory and spatial navigation. It is located in the medial temporal lobe and is a part of the limbic system.
The hippocampus is responsible for creating new memories and consolidating short-term memories into long-term ones.
Damage to the hippocampus can result in memory loss, and research has shown that it is also involved in certain psychiatric and neurological disorders such as PTSD and Alzheimer’s disease.
In the new study, researchers analyzed hippocampal activity in people visiting the emergency room after a car accident.
During the test, they gave them various questions and monitored their responses, and at the same time, researchers measured their hippocampal activity using fMRI.
They found that in those with more severe PTSD, hippocampal activity was reduced. However, they did not find any such changes in those who were more readily able to overcome their fears and negative past experiences.
The study shows that those prone to PTSD have altered hippocampal activity.
Of course, these are still early days. Nonetheless, it is a step forward in the right direction.
Since understanding the disease severity solely based on the patient’s responses or signs and symptoms is not a very accurate method to diagnose the condition.
In the future, researchers plan to develop more precise diagnostic algorithms. This will help in a more accurate diagnosis. This will transform not only PTSD diagnosis but also treatment since it will provide a reliable way to monitor treatment progress.
Additionally, such an objective test will also help carry out clinical studies. It is quite likely that this may even help in the early diagnosis of the condition. Such tests may, in the future, help identify individuals at a greater risk of PTSD and more.
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