advertisement
11 December 2008

Some may be predisposed to PTSD

A study of identical twins - one with combat experience and one without - suggests both genetic and environmental factors contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

0

A study of identical twins - one with combat experience and one without - suggests both genetic and environmental factors contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), US researchers said.

The 10-year study aimed to determine whether the often debilitating anxiety disorder arises from an inherent vulnerability or is strictly caused by a traumatic event.

"The way we have been getting at this question is to study a group of more than 100 Vietnam vets who each have an identical twin who didn't serve in combat," said Dr Roger Pitman of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Arizona, US.

"Because twins have the same genes and family environment, the unexposed twin represents what the combat-exposed twins would be like except for the combat exposure," Pitman said.

Pre-existing risk factors
Prior research had found that diminished brain volume in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory and stress response, was associated with PTSD.

Pitman and colleagues found this characteristic was shared in twin pairs in which the veteran developed PTSD.

They also found shared abnormalities in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which plays a role in the fear response.

"We've identified several abnormalities that combat vets share with their unexposed twins. These must represent pre-existing risk factors," he said.

However, they also found a number of abnormalities not shared by the twins, such as a highly attuned startle response resulting in increased heart rates in the combat-exposed twin.

"This tends to refute the suggestion that a person with PTSD would have psychiatric problems even if they had not been exposed to a traumatic event," he said.

Findings may help PTSD management
He said the findings may help guide treatment for people with PTSD.

PTSD often begins about 3 months after an event such as wartime combat or injury, rape, assault, a car or plane crash or other trauma. But sometimes PTSD appears years later. - (Julie Steenhuysen/Reuters Health)

Read more:
War victims passed on PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

December 2008

 
NEXT ON HEALTH24X
advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Terrific Tea! »

Rooibos makes cocktails healthier Rooibos: an alternative energy drink

More than 10 reasons why rooibos is good for you

Today marks the first annual National Rooibos Day, which aims to raise awareness of the health benefits and many uses of rooibos tea.

Healthy? Are you sure? »

5 diseases we can get from animals Could your salon visit make you sick?

7 terrifying diseases you could have without knowing it

Not all serious illnesses come with tell-tale symptoms. There are diseases that can turn your body into a ticking time-bomb while you're unaware of any danger.