Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Some people who experience severe psychological trauma develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition characterized by recur- T3_

ring, intrusive memories of the traumatic event. These memories are highly persistent and interfere with the process of acquiring new information, consolidating memories, and remembering information that is unrelated to the trauma. Sustained levels of stress stimulate the release of a hormone called Cortisol, which can ultimately damage brain structures that are important for memory. In fact, patients with PTSD have been found to have structural changes in the hippocampus and possibly other areas of the limbic system.

High levels of cortisol can also cause memory problems in people without PTSD. In one study, healthy adults were given a supplemental dose of cortisol once a day for four days. The people were divided into two groups. One group was given a low dose of cortisol—about the level that the body naturally releases in response to ordinary stressful events, such as getting stuck in traffic and being late for an appointment. The other group received a high dose of cortisol. All participants took a test in which they listened to stories and then had to remember details about them immediately and again thirty minutes later. The people who received the high cortisol dose remembered less, both immediately and later, than did the people receiving the lower dose.

The memory problems induced by this four-day experiment were reversible; once the cortisol wore off, the participants' memory function returned to normal. In like manner, research shows that timely and effective treatment of PTSD can improve memory function. However, memory deficits will persist if there has been structural damage to the hippocampus or other parts of the limbic system.

0 0

Post a comment