Laboratory rats provide new insight into PTSD

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Centre in San Antonio, have reported that subjecting rats to stress changes the brain structures and subsequently how they behave in the same way as it does in humans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Post traumatic Stress Disorder is a frightening and disabling disorder that affects approximately 30 percent of the population with ever increasing numbers of service men and women being diagnosed with the condition. Marked by changes in behaviour such as hypervigilance where by a person who has been subjected to a traumatic event will consequently appear on edge and fearful the event happening again or another such attack on their physical or mental integrity which affects their day to day activities.

Researchers have reported that not only are there changes in the structure of the brains in rats when they are subjected to stress early in life, but these changes do not return to normal in adulthood. The changes reported were specifically associated with fear which also had an impact on their anxiety levels and performance in behaviour tests where it was observed that rats suffering from PTSD symptoms were believed to be “stuck in an inappropriate response mode” and were found it significantly harder than non-PTSD rats to cope with change.

The research which is being funded by an association with the American Department of Defence is being used to develop treatments and methods of overcoming post traumatic stress disorder.

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