PTSD Can Deter Growth of Neurons in Brain. (More Evidence Confirms Connection)

By Boughton, Barbara | Clinical Psychiatry News, February 2003 | Go to article overview

PTSD Can Deter Growth of Neurons in Brain. (More Evidence Confirms Connection)


Boughton, Barbara, Clinical Psychiatry News


LOS ANGELES -- An increasing amount of evidence shows that posttraumatic stress disorder has detrimental effects on the biology of the brain, Dr. J. Douglas Bremner said at a meeting on posttraumatic stress disorder sponsored by the Foundation for Psychocultural Research.

"Studies definitively show us that stress is bad for neurons--particularly neurogenesis or the development of new neurons in the brain," said Dr. Bremner of Emory University Hospital, Atlanta.

Studies, such as a 2000 study by Dr. Elizabeth Gould and associates, show a decrease in neurogenesis in adulthood with the onset of stress. Stress also decreases the dendritic branching of neurons in the hippocampus, Dr. Bremner noted at the meeting, which was also sponsored by the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the animal kingdom, the effects of stress are similar. Dominant animals--those less likely to be under stress-usually show more neurogenesis than subordinate animals.

Yet Dr. Bremner noted that antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac) can promote hippocampal neurogenesis. A 2002 study by Dr. R.S. Duman and associates in fact, suggested that increased neurogenesis might be one of the ways in which antidepressants decrease psychiatric symptoms, Dr. Bremner said.

Since the hippo campus plays an important part in learning and memory the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have unfortunate consequences.

In studies, combat veterans and victims of child abuse with PTSD have had on average a 40% reduction in immediate recall of memories. In fact, the recall abilities of veterans and child abuse victims were as deficient as those who had epileptic attacks or had their hippocampus removed surgically, according to Dr. …

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