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Dr. Daniel Pine on Boosting Resilience to PTSD

Dr. Daniel Pine on a NIH study that tracked Israeli soldiers through deployment to ID predictors. Study found that soldiers preoccupied with threat at the time of enlistment or with avoiding it just before deployment were more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Pine: I think there are really two things to take away from the study. The first thing is that we’ve known for many, many years that there are tremendous differences in terms of how people react to stress. And these differences are particularly important in situations that are examined in this study- combat situations- since we’re all tremendously concerned about the reactions of troops in the United States, in Israel, and elsewhere when they’re exposed to stress. So, soldiers and other individuals react very differently when they’re exposed to the same level of stress. So the question is how can we understand those differences. What can we do to predict before stress happens who’s going to react with resilience and who’s going to react by having problems after stress. So, that’s the first thing to say about the study. The second thing to say about the study is that we’ve tried many different measures to try to predict these reactions. The ones that typically work best are when we talk to patients and we find out different aspects of how they respond- mentally and symptomatically to stress. And those are very, very helpful. The problem is those just give us kind of surface rendering- just one level of how people respond and what we’re really trying to find is measures of behavior that we can link more tightly to individual differences in brain function. So, that’s the second major aspect of this study… that the measure of behavior used here unlike in many other studies was a direct measure of attention- one that was based on behavior. And that gives us novel insights about what might be going on in the brain that might, in turn, predict people’s reaction when they experience trauma or other forms of stress later in life.