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Science News About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Girls Thrive Emotionally, Boys Falter After Move to Better Neighborhood

Science Update

Ronald Kessler, Ph.D., of Harvard University

Girls in public housing benefited emotionally from a move to a better neighborhood while boys fared worse than if they’d stayed in the poor neighborhood. Rates of depression and conduct disorder markedly increased in boys and decreased in girls. Boys also experienced significantly increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complicating housing policy decision-making.

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NIMH’s Dr. Aleksandra Vicentic: Sleep Brain Wave Key to Conquering Fear Memories

Science Update

Dr. Aleksandra Vicentic

An NIMH-funded research study in rats identifies a specific group of cells in the brainstem whose activation during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep helped in eradicating unwanted memories, paving the way for future therapeutics for these disorders.

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Threat Bias Interacts with Combat, Gene to Boost PTSD Risk

Press Release

Dr. Daniel Pine

Excess attention to avoidance of threat – depending on the situation – can increase risk for PTSD, suggests a new study.

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President Obama Signs Executive Order to Improve Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families

Science Update

White House logo.

President Obama signed an Executive Order directing key federal departments to expand suicide prevention strategies and take steps to meet the current and future demand for mental health and substance abuse treatment services for veterans, service members, and their families.

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Couple’s Therapy Appears to Decrease PTSD Symptoms, Improve Relationship

Science Update

adult couple sitting on a bench

Among couples in which one partner was diagnosed as having posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), participation in disorder-specific couple therapy resulted in decreased PTSD symptom severity and increased patient relationship satisfaction, compared with couples who were placed on a wait list for the therapy, according to a study in the August 15 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on violence and human rights.

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Suspect Gene Variants Boost PTSD Risk after Mass Shooting

Science Update

SERT and PTSD symptoms

College students exposed to a mass shooting were 20-30 percent more likely to later develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms if they harbored a risk version of a gene, NIMH-funded researchers have discovered.

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Light Switches Brain Pathway On-and-Off to Dissect How Anxiety Works

Science Update

neurons

Scientists, for the first time, have switched anxiety on-and-off in active animals by shining light at a brain pathway. Instinctively reclusive mice suddenly began exploring normally forbidding open spaces when a blue laser activated the pathway – and retreated into a protected area when it dimmed. By contrast, anxiety-like behaviors increased when an amber laser inhibited the same pathway.

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Nurturing Newborn Neurons Sharpens Minds in Mice

Press Release

Newborn neurons in mouse hippocampus

Adult mice engineered to have more newborn neurons in their brain memory hub excelled at accurately discriminating between similar experiences – an ability that declines with normal aging and in some anxiety disorders. Boosting such neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus also produced antidepressant-like effects when combined with exercise, in the study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Little-known Growth Factor Enhances Memory, Prevents Forgetting in Rats

Press Release

Profile of head showing gears superimposed on brain outline.

A naturally occurring growth factor significantly boosted retention and prevented forgetting of a fear memory when injected into rats' memory circuitry during time-limited windows when memories become fragile and changeable. In the study funded by the National Institutes of Health, animals treated with insulin-like growth factor (IGF-II) excelled at remembering to avoid a location where they had previously experienced a mild shock.

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Stress Hormone Receptors Less Adaptive in Female Brain

Science Update

molecular dance

A study in rats has revealed striking gender difference in the brain’s stress response that could shed light on women’s proneness to mood and anxiety disorders. Female rat brain cells were more sensitive to a key stress hormone than males’, which could adapt to the hormone in a way female cells couldn’t.

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Non-Invasive Technique Blocks a Conditioned Fear in Humans

Press Release

fMRI scan showing amygdala

Scientists have for the first time selectively blocked a conditioned fear memory in humans with a behavioral manipulation. Participants remained free of the fear memory for at least a year. The research builds on emerging evidence from animal studies that reactivating an emotional memory opens a 6-hour window of opportunity in which a training procedure can alter it.

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PTSD Treatment Efforts for Returning War Veterans to be Evaluated

Science Update

man and woman in individual therapy

Joan Cook, Ph.D., of Yale University and colleagues have been awarded funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to evaluate the implementation of two evidence-based psychotherapies for treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. The grant addresses the NIH Challenge Grant topic “Strategies to Support Uptake of Interventions within Clinical Community and Settings.”

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Expert Panel Addresses High Rates of Smoking in People with Psychiatric Disorders

Science Update

Numerous biological, psychological, and social factors are likely to play a role in the high rates of smoking in people with psychiatric disorders, according to the report of an expert panel convened by the National Institute of Mental Health. The report reviews current literature and identifies research needed to clarify these factors and their interactions, and to improve treatment aimed at reducing the rates of illness and mortality from smoking in this population.

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Consortium Moves Quickly to Study Resilience Following Hurricane Ike

Science Update

A consortium of research programs funded by NIMH to conduct post-disaster mental health research mobilized this year following hurricane Ike to study the factors that influence resilience after disasters.

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Virtual Reality, Psychotherapy, Show Promise in Treating PTSD Symptoms; Civilian Access to Care Remains a Concern

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 7 — Early data from an NIMH-sponsored double-blind study of 24 war veterans shows a marked reduction in acoustic startle — the reflex response to sudden loud sounds — in those treated with virtual reality exposure therapy combined with either d-cycloserine, an antibiotic that has been shown to facilitate the extinction of fear memories; pill placebo; or the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam (Xanax).

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Past Child Abuse Plus Variations in Gene Result in Potent PTSD Risk for Adults

Science Update

A traumatic event is much more likely to result in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults who experienced trauma in childhood – but certain gene variations raise the risk considerably if the childhood trauma involved physical or sexual abuse, scientists have found. The research was conducted with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, and others.

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Mental Disorders Persist Among Hurricane Katrina Survivors

Science Update

More residents affected by Hurricane Katrina are enduring mental disorders than was initially determined a few months after the storm, according to a study published online January 8, 2008, in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The trend runs counter to the typical pattern of recovery after a natural disaster, in which the prevalence of mental disorders among the survivors gradually decreases and fades out after about two years.

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Research-based Principles May Help Improve Mental Health Recovery Following Mass Trauma

Science Update

Experts on trauma-related research and medical practices from around the world recently identified five principles to guide mental health care efforts immediately or shortly after a mass trauma, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack. In a related commentary, NIMH scientist Farris Tuma, Sc.D., MHS, discusses how these principles may help determine effective mental health care for large numbers of people following an emergency, and how best to deliver it. The article and commentary were published in the Winter 2007 issue of Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes.

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Memory-sustaining Enzyme May Help Treat PTSD, Cognitive Decline

Science Update

Chemically blocking an enzyme in a specific area in the brain’s cortex, or outer mantle, erased a long-term memory of an aversive event that rats had learned, a study funded in part by NIMH has found.

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Internet-based PTSD Therapy May Help Overcome Barriers to Care

Science Update

NIMH-funded researchers recently completed a pilot study showing that an Internet-based, self-managed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, with effects that last after treatment has ended.

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Stress: Brain Yields Clues About Why Some Succumb While Others Prevail

Press Release

Results of a new study may one day help scientists learn how to enhance a naturally occurring mechanism in the brain that promotes resilience to psychological stress.

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Half of Adults With Anxiety Disorders Had Psychiatric Diagnoses in Youth

Science Update

About half of adults with an anxiety disorder had symptoms of some type of psychiatric illness by age 15, a NIMH-funded study shows.

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History of Childhood Abuse or Neglect Increases Risk of Major Depression

Science Update

People who were abused or neglected as children have increased risk of major depression, which often begins in childhood and has lingering effects as they mature, according to a study funded by NIMH.

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PTSD, Depression Epidemic Among Cambodian Immigrants

Press Release

More than two decades after they fled the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, most Cambodian refugees who resettled in the United States remain traumatized, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has found.

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Rat Brain’s Executive Hub Quells Alarm Center if Stress is Controllable

Press Release

Treatments for mood and anxiety disorders are thought to work, in part, by helping patients control the stresses in their lives.

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