Brain Hormones Might Determine Who Develops PTSD

If your levels of stress hormones in your brain are abnormal or function in an abnormal way, then you are more likely to get Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome after an extremely upsetting experience, such as being in combat or sexually assaulted, according to new studies from Great Britain. Researchers from the University of Bristol hope their work will change the way scientists think about PTSS and help them develop new medications for it.

Professor Johannes Reul and his colleagues found that stress-induced hormones can enhance memory formation by the way they act on the hippocampus area of the brain. If this hormonal mechanism does not work properly, a person will become more vulnerable to forming traumatic memories that are upsetting not only in nightmares but all day long.

"Making memories of events in our lives is of critical importance in order to cope properly with new situations and challenges in the future," Dr. Reul said. "This is of particularly importance for emotional and traumatic life events. Our newly discovered mechanism should be regarded as an adaptive mechanism. We believe this mechanism could be disturbed in stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety."

This study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.