Brain Scans Can Tell Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Apart
For the last two years, the Military Veteran Project has evolved into what you see today. A Volunteer Led Military Non Profit committed to the treatment of PTSD, TBI & Suicide Prevention. We are partnered with medical providers and facilities across the nation doing our best to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with alternative therapies while tapering down over medicated veterans. The Military Veteran Project has assisted in the diagnosis of nearly 200 traumatic brain injuries that were undiagnosed and able to return veterans back to the quality of life they deserve. How are we doing that? Read the article by Dr. Amen below on the new SPECT scan to find out.
In the largest functional brain imaging study published on 20,742 patients, researchers reported in a study published online in PLOS ONE today that SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography), a measure of blood flow and activity patterns in the brain, can reliably distinguish physical traumatic brain injury (TBI) from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The research was done by a collaborative team from Amen Clinics, UCLA, Thomas Jefferson University, and University of British Columbia on patient data gathered over the last 20 years.
The investigators used computer-based methods to measure blood flow and activity in 128 different brain regions when study subjects were at rest and when doing a mental task. The study then used a mathematical model to determine if the scans could tell apart TBI from PTSD from persons with both. This model was applied in separate groups with and without other mental health conditions with predictive sensitivity of SPECT in distinguishing PTSD from TBI of 80-100%.
SPECT can tell TBI and PTSD apart because these disorders affect the brain in different ways. TBI involves damage to the brain from direct blows or blast injuries, leading to reduced brain activity and blood flow. PTSD involves hyperactive reactions to different stimuli leading to brain scan patterns where blood flow is abnormally higher compared to TBI or normal health.
Daniel Amen, MD, a board certified psychiatrist who founded Amen Clinics and was the lead author on the study, said “This study can help millions of people who suffer with PTSD, TBI or both. Getting the right diagnosis is critical to getting the right help. Having a tool to better understand and separate them will help eliminate the guesswork that can lead clinicians down ineffective treatment paths.”
Canadian psychiatrist John Thornton, MD who was not a co-author on the study said, “Studies like this are the way forward for psychiatry. The ability to differentiate between PTSD and TBI is very important clinically as the treatments are different.”
Dan Silverman, MD, PhD, Chief of Neuro-Nuclear Medicine at UCLA Medical Center, also not involved with the study noted the importance of the study by commenting, “This publication may pave the way for future studies that prospectively apply functional brain imaging in a variety of psychiatric disorders in general and PTSD and TBI in particular.”
Over 7.7 million people suffer from PTSD at any given point in time and there are over 2 million new brain injuries every year in the U.S. Military veterans are especially vulnerable, with 400,000 of them suffering from PTSD, TBI, or both. Additional sources cited in the paper note the annual cost of PTSD alone is at least 4 billion dollars per year.
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