People suffering from post-traumatic stress have an imbalance in brain connectivity as various connections between brain areas are altered, resulting in symptoms ranging from insomnia to eating disorders.
5 to 12 percent of the population suffers from post-traumatic stress, and certain groups of people are particularly affected, such as military personnel. Nearly a quarter of those who have served in a war zone are affected. This condition can disappear within a few months or persist and become chronic. It usually leads to chronic stress, sleep disturbances and even eating disorders. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroimaging, its authors explain how post-traumatic stress manifests in the brain and also presented a treatment option.
Each area of the brain has its own function
Using MRI scans, the researchers examined the connectivity of brain networks. Specifically, they looked at brain lateralization, which refers to the distribution of functions between different brain regions. For example, the parasympathetic nervous system is controlled by the left side of the brain, while the sympathetic nervous system, which is associated with functions such as breathing, is controlled by the right side. In the case of post-traumatic stress, researchers have found that this distribution of functions between different areas of the brain is dysregulated. They also point out that “when connections between hemispheres are balanced, individuals are healthier.”
How can brain connectivity be reorganized?
Taking the study a step further, the team looked at the effects of a scientific technique on the brains of people with post-traumatic stress. It’s called Cereset: the patient sits in a chair with headphones over their ears and receives sounds similar to those the brain hears. “This helps the brain relax, modify and reset to improve symmetry and balance, which is associated with a reduction in post-traumatic stress symptoms,” the researchers pointed out. The benefits of this approach lasted up to six months after the study.
Psychotherapy is essential
One of the cornerstones of post-traumatic stress management is psychotherapy. As the NIH reminds us, the goal of psychotherapy is to limit the mental and behavioral avoidance that prevents the traumatic memory from being integrated and treated as a habitual memory. Medications may be prescribed to act on the symptoms: Antidepressants, anxiolytics, and tranquilizers. It is however estimated that one in five patients is at risk of relapse after treatment.