Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Biomarkers of PTSD: Military Applications and Considerations

Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Biomarkers of PTSD: Military Applications and Considerations

Article excerpt


Biomarkers of PTSD: military applications and considerations

Amy Lehrner1* and Rachel Yehuda1,2

1James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA; 2Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA


Background : Although there are no established biomarkers for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as yet, biological investigations of PTSD have made progress identifying the pathophysiology of PTSD. Given the biological and clinical complexity of PTSD, it is increasingly unlikely that a single biomarker of disease will be identified. Rather, investigations will more likely identify different biomarkers that indicate the presence of clinically significant PTSD symptoms, associate with risk for PTSD following trauma exposure, and predict or identify recovery. While there has been much interest in PTSD biomarkers, there has been less discussion of their potential clinical applications, and of the social, legal, and ethical implications of such biomarkers.

Objective : This article will discuss possible applications of PTSD biomarkers, including the social, legal, and ethical implications of such biomarkers, with an emphasis on military applications.

Method : Literature on applications of PTSD biomarkers and on potential ethical and legal implications will be reviewed.

Results : Biologically informed research findings hold promise for prevention, assessment, treatment planning, and the development of prophylactic and treatment interventions. As with any biological indicator of disorder, there are potentially positive and negative clinical, social, legal, and ethical consequences of using such biomarkers.

Conclusions : Potential clinical applications of PTSD biomarkers hold promise for clinicians, patients, and employers. The search for biomarkers of PTSD should occur in tandem with an interdisciplinary discussion regarding the potential implications of applying biological findings in clinical and employment settings.

Keywords: Posttraumatic stress disorder; biomarkers; clinical utility; ethics; translation

*Correspondence to: Amy Lehrner, Mental Health Patient Care Center, James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 526 OOMH PTSD 116/A, 130 West Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, New York, NY 10468, USA, Email:

For the abstract or full text in other languages, please see Supplementary files under Article Tools online

This paper is part of the Special Issue: PTSD in the military: prevalence, pathophysiology, treatment . More papers from this issue can be found at

Received: 11 January 2014; Revised: 26 March 2014; Accepted: 18 April 2014; Published: 14 August 2014

European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014. © 2014 Amy Lehrner and Rachel Yehuda. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) License (, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, for any purpose, even commercially, under the condition that appropriate credit is given, that a link to the license is provided, and that you indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

Citation: European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014, 5 : 23797 -

There has been extensive progress in characterizing the biological basis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Perturbations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, sympathetic adrenomedullary system, and alterations in brain structure and function have been associated with risk for development of PTSD following trauma exposure, with PTSD symptoms and diagnosis, and with recovery (e. …

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