Finding could lead to improved PTSD treatment

By Staff Writer

Following emotional or physical trauma, a particular part of the brain begins to associate the circumstances of the incident with fear, according to a new study from University of Iowa researchers. The findings could have major implications for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Doctors have long known that certain situations can be associated with an exaggerated fear response. However, they did not know the specific area of the brain that was responsible for this response.

After examining a woman whose amygdala – an area of the brain that plays a role in emotions – had been completely destroyed by a rare disease, the researchers found that she was unable to experience fear. She did not respond to immediate fear-invoking stimuli like horror movies or haunted houses, nor did she report any fear associations.

Researchers said that the findings could lead to major improvements in the treatment of PTSD. By developing medications that target this specific area of the brain, scientists may be able to prevent the exaggerated fear responses that often occur in individuals following a traumatic event.