Concussions may expose troops to greater PTSD risk

A new study has found soldiers who suffer a concussion or other forms of brain injury are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings provide concrete evidence for the long-suspected link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD development.

Researchers wanted to know whether service members become more susceptible to PTSD due to the emotional trauma of combat, or because a concussion physically alters the brain in a way that intensifies anxiety and fear. Potentially thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans may have developed PTSD after sustaining a concussion from a bomb blast on the battlefield.

Researchers assessed more than 1,600 Iraq and Afghanistan troops both prior to deployment and three months after their return. Service members who sustained brain trauma while deployed were twice as likely to develop PTSD in comparison to uninjured veterans.

According to the findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concussions and other brain injuries can change the way the brain reacts to a frightening situation. The injury disturbs the electrical activity in parts of the brain that normally regulate emotional reactions such as tempering responses to fear.

“The result is like a car with no brake,” said biomedical physicist Mingxiong Huang, of the University of California, San Diego. Researchers plan to continue investigating the brain circuitry involved in both TBI and PTSD in order to gain a better understanding of their connection.

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