The Handbook of Stress: Neuropsychological Effects on the Brain

By Cheryl D. Conrad | Go to book overview

22
Stress and Human
Neuroimaging Studies

J. Douglas Bremner


Lasting Effects of Traumatic Stress on the Brain and Behavior

Traumatic stressors can lead to several chronic psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as depression (Franklin and Zimmerman, 2001; Prigerson et al., 2001), substance abuse (Bremner et al., 1996; Kessler et al., 1995), dissociative disorders (Putnam et al., 1986), and borderline personality disorder (Battle et al., 2004; Yen et al., 2002). For many trauma victims, PTSD, which affects about 8% of Americans at some time in their lives (Kessler et al., 1995), may be a lifelong problem (Saigh and Bremner, 1999). The past decade has seen an explosion of research using brain imaging to assess the effects of traumatic stress on the brain (Bremner, 2007; Bremner, 2005; Bremner et al., 2008). These studies have implicated the amygdala, hippocampus, and medial prefrontal cortex (including anterior cingulate) in PTSD and other stress-related psychiatric disorders. This chapter reviews brain-imaging studies looking at the effects of traumatic stress on the brain, and integrates them with basic science findings on the neuroscience of stress.


Neural Circuits of Trauma-spectrum Disorders

Psychiatric disorders linked to trauma have been termed trauma-spectrum disorders (Bremner, 2002a). Symptoms of PTSD and other trauma-spectrum disorders are hypothesized to represent the behavioral manifestation of stress-induced changes in brain structure and function. Stress results in acute and chronic changes in

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