Tag Archives: Prefrontal cortex

The biological roots of PTSD…and resilience


Brain structures involved in dealing with fear...

Brain structures involved in dealing with fear and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good friend of mine pointed me to a recent Nature essay that describes the biological markers for PTSD and resilience–and provides some of the answer of why some seem to recover fairly quickly while others continue to struggle. Here’s a couple key quotes:

“Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which tracks blood flow in the brain, has revealed that when people who have PTSD are reminded of the trauma, they tend to have an underactive prefrontal cortex and an overactive amygdala, another limbic brain region, which processes fear and emotion…”

“People who experience trauma but do not develop PTSD, on the other hand, show more activity in the prefrontal cortex.”

Of course, we need to understand that we are complex beings with complex histories and current social connections. We don’t only look at neural activity but with increasing understanding, we learn how experiences such as childhood trauma, poor social support influence brain activity.

Some worry that the discussion of biological features of PTSD will lead only to increasing chemical interventions (meds, surgeries, etc.). I do not believe this to be the case given that we are also learning about the ways that current relationships and psychotherapies are altering brain activity.

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Filed under counseling, counseling science, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychiatric Medications, Psychology