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Check out Deeply Into How PTSD Affects How Traumatic Memories Are Processed



PTSD sufferers get the impression that they are living out old traumas in the here and now. This could have something to do with how the brain interprets memories of those encounters.

According to new research, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) handle depressing, non-traumatic memories differently than they do traumatic ones.

Adverse event flashbacks are intrusive and persistent in people with PTSD, and they are frequently accompanied by intense anxiety and emotional suffering.

When someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a flashback, they don’t remember the painful incident as a regular memory; instead, they feel as though they are reliving it in the here and now. Scientists believe they may now understand why.

A recent study conducted on PTSD patients found that while traumatic memories linked to the disorder activate the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a region of the brain located above the hippocampus processes happy, non-traumatic memories. While memory and emotional processing are processed by both brain regions, internally directed cognitive processes, such as daydreaming or self-awareness, are primarily processed by the PCC.

In contrast, memories are organized and contextualized by the hippocampus.

The goal of the research was to investigate what transpires in the brain during memory recall in PTSD patients. They gathered 28 PTSD sufferers who told a therapist about three different sorts of memories: peaceful ones like going on a walk in the forest; melancholic, non-traumatic memories like losing a loved one; and traumatic ones like being in a vehicle accident.

After that, each of these memories was turned into a script that was played for patients in two-minute segments as an MRI machine was used to scan their brains. The hippocampus, which aids in both storing and retrieving long-term memories of events, was the focus of the scans.

“This brain region is critical for memory, if you have damage in the hippocampus you cannot form new memories,” co-senior study author Daniela Schiller, a professor of neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, told Live Science.

Individuals with depressing, non-traumatic memories pertaining to the same subject matter exhibited comparable hippocampal activation levels. “What it tells us is that the hippocampus cares or is involved because it is sensitive to these degrees of similarity,” Schiller stated.

Traumatic memories, on the other hand, triggered the PCC rather than doing the same. The higher the PCC activity, the worse the patient’s PTSD symptoms were.

The researchers could anticipate what kind of memory a patient was experiencing based on brain activity by using a machine learning system to identify if a pattern of brain activation matched to a traumatic or sad memory.

Larger sample sizes require further research, the authors of the paper stated. But they are hopeful that these discoveries will result in the creation of novel treatments that modify brain activity to transform these traumatic memories into ones that are more like non-traumatic ones.

“If we find that sad memories are in the hippocampus and these are memories that are not disruptive to you, treatment could aim to make these traumatic memories more like regular memories,” Schiller said.

“If treatment works, maybe we will see that they engage the hippocampus when they become more benign,” she said.

But these are just goals at this point, so it might take some time before such a treatment is made available.


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