U scientists find definitive indicator of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder causes increased activity on the right side of brain.

U scientists find definitive indicator of PTSD

Luke Feuerherm

After years of research and months of fine tuning, researchers at the University of Minnesota said they have found a definitive way of identifying post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last January, researchers at the University and the Minneapolis VA Medical Center were able to recognize difference in brain activity between those with PTSD and control subjects without the disorder.

Now, the same researchers have found that it is increased activity in the right side of the brain that may be responsible for the involuntary flashbacks, recurring nightmares or anger that often stems from war.

To get the images, subjects are placed in a large helmet for 60 seconds and asked to focus on a point in front of them without any other stimulation.

During that time, the interactions between 248 points in the brain are measured with a technique called magnetoencephalography, or MEG. In subjects with PTSD, these interactions are highly active, especially in an area on the right side of the brain.

Because of the varying amount of activity, researchers can also detect the degree to which a person is suffering from the disorder, which could lead to better diagnosis and better treatment, said Apostolos Georgopoulos, a co-leader of the study and a director of the Brain Sciences Center at the VA.

Researchers were able to see the activity while subjects were in a “task-free state,” supporting the idea that those with PTSD are prone to relive painful memories regardless of what they are currently doing.

And while Georgopoulos anticipates that the findings will result in major changes in the way that PTSD is handled, he said it is time to continue to “beef up the numbers” and prove to the VA, which has funded the research, that the MEG is essential medical equipment.

And theyâÄôve been on a good trend, Georgopoulos said.

Since January, they have been able to increase the percent of healthy people they correctly classified from 88 percent to 95 percent accuracy. TheyâÄôre even better at identifying those with PTSD, doing so with 96 percent accuracy.

The team of researchers also hopes to round out their study with subjects who are not only suffering from PTSD but also depression and traumatic brain injury.