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PSTD Maybe Diagnosed With Brain Scan

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 PSTD Maybe Diagnosed With Brain Scan

The BBC News (02 04 09) have recently reported that the condition known as PSTD according to scientists may soon be diagnosed with a brain scan.

The research is to be presented to the World Psychiatric Association congress in Florence and will highlight the differences in the brain activity of those who suffer the condition.

Worryingly, over 40 US soldiers who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan were tested. Evidence suggests that about half of whom had a diagnosis of PTSD.

Notwithstanding, their brains were closely examined with the use of an MRI scanner whilst performing memory tasks.

Significantly, the term PTSD is used to describe a range of psychological symptoms people may experience following a traumatic, usually life-threatening, event. It is seen most commonly in those who have been on active service.

It is understood that researchers at Duke University in the US presented 42 soldiers, both male and female, with photographs of three similar faces.

In essence they were shown pictures, one of a combat scene, the second being a non-combat photograph and the third being the photograph of the face again. They were asked whether thay had just seen this image.

Researchers noted that while wathcing the brain associated with paying attention, it was the group without PSTD that were far more distracted by the images of the combat scenes.

Those suffering the condition were distracted by both the combat and non-combat images. Moreover they performed more poorly in the memory test of faces which followed.

Dr Dr Rajendra Morey, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University says, “This sensitivity to neutral information is consistent with the PTSD symptom of hypervigilance, where those afflicted are on high alert for threats and are more distracted by not only threatening situations that remind them of the trauma, but also by benign situations.”

However, experts in the UK have argued at this stage to see much practical use there was in being able to identify PTSD on a brain scanner.

“It is not actually hard to diagnose PTSD - all you need is a decent mental health professional,” said Professor Simon Wessely, director of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research.

“The real challenge is to persuade people to come forward for help.

“Neuroscience is clearly going to help us understand the neural substrates underlying symptoms, but as long as soldiers continue to believe that admitting to psychological distress is not what a soldier should do, most will never get near an MRI scanner.”

Senior lecturer in military psychiatry, Neil Greenberg, has said he could not see any therapeutic benefit in using a scanner to diagnose.

But he said: “There’s a possible use from a medico-legal perspective, if someone wants to prove definitively that this is a condition they have.

“And it’s also feasible that it could be used against those who are avoiding military duties because they say they have PTSD.”

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