Creating mental & physical maps of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
"People with cancer have a variety of different treatment options available based on the type of cancer that they have...We aim to do the same thing in psychiatry. We're deconstructing PTSD symptoms, linking them to different brain dysfunction, and then developing treatments that target those symptoms."
~Dr. Alexander Neumeister, co-director of NYU Langone Medical Center's Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury
A recent NYU study has linked opioid receptors in the brain to PTSD symptoms such as listlessness and emotional detachment. PTSD should be high on the list of treatable mental disorders, given how pervasive it is in the U.S.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs:
- ~5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year
- Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD
- PTSD is most likely triggered by exposure to long-lasting severe trauma and/or serious injury
- In the military, 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars ,10% of Gulf War Veterans, and 30% of Vietnam War Veterans are likely to have PTSD
The NYU study is likely to open up many valuable areas of inquiry that have been poorly understood to this point:
- PTSD latency (late-onset PTSD) - Looking at the stats for veterans above, it might be that the incidence of PTSD for Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans is significantly lower than for those in Vietnam in part because of factors like late-onset PTSD and dynamic factors associated with aging. This hypothesis is pure speculation on my part, but there are reasons to believe PTSD can be triggered later in life in people who were previously asymptomatic. It is necessary to conduct longitudinal studies of PTSD populations to evaluate these links further.
- Interactions between sleep, activity levels, immuno-regulatory function and PTSD - The NYU study noted changes in cortisol levels for subjects with PTSD. Cortisol regulation and corresponding risk factors (e.g. obesity, depression) have long been linked to sleep, stress, and activity levels. Getting a clearer mental & physical map of symptomatic PTSD subjects will likely yield valuable findings regarding comorbidity risks and potential interventions.
QMedic has always had one foot in supporting clinical research and intervention through proactive measurement of sleep, activity and other physical risk factors. This is central to our work with the NIH, Northwestern Hospital, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. With recent advances in brain imaging technology such as that used in the NYU study, the prospect of mapping mind and body, and targeting proactive treatments, is now more exciting than ever—not only for PTSD but for all chronic mental & physical disabilities.