Neuroscience Associated with PTSD Research Paper

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Sources: 12
  • Subject: Psychology
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #42439764
  • Related Topics: Trauma, Neuroscience, Brain

Excerpt from Research Paper :

The Hippocampus Region of the Brain and PTSD Prevention


This paper examines the relationship between neuroscience and PTSD. In particular it looks at recent findings in neuroscience regarding PTSD onset and prevention. The latest research shows that brain volume is impacted by PTSD and that individuals afflicted with PTSD literally see a diminishment of brain volume in both hemispheres of the brain. Other findings show that individuals who are most susceptible to PTSD have a deficiency in their hippocampal region of the brain, where associative learning has been linked. The conclusion is that the hippocampus is not stimulated enough to develop and thus this region of the brain is smaller than it normally is in most people. This could also explain why the majority of people who experience trauma are not afflicted with PTSD: they have adequately developed their hippocampus through associative learning and are able to process trauma by linking the traumatic event with ideas that are caused by and thus are not haunted by the event continuously but rather are able to move forward because they have understood the impact that it has had on themselves. This paper shows that to help prevent PTSD it may be necessary to improve associative learning in children and to increase their ability to persevere and face challenges with grit and determination so that they can apply critical thinking skills to develop that part of the brain that needs to be developed to combat PTSD.

Keywords: ptsd associative learning, ptsd hippocampus, ptsd neuroscience


Increased attention has been brought to the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly since veterans returning from the wars in the Middle East have necessitated that increase in attention as a result of their own mental health issues (Vogt et al., 2017). Currently, there are more than 1 million veterans of these wars who are at risk for suicide as a result of untreated PTSD (Kang et al., 2015). Soldiers are but one population afflicted with PTSD, however. Police officers also are at high risk for exposure to trauma and hence to the effects of PTSD (Chopko & Schwartz, 2012). How to identify the signs of PTSD and how effectively to treat it are issues debated primarily because the neuroscience of PTSD is still under review. Some debate over whether individuals are experiencing PTSD or rather traumatic brain injury (TBI) also goes on (Klimova, Korgaonkar, Whitford & Bryant, 2019). Nonetheless, what the neuroscience associated with PTSD has so far been able to show is that there are specific regions of the brain that do become smaller in people afflicted with PTSD (Tan et al., 2013). This paper will discuss the neuroscience associated with PTSD and show how brain imaging has been able to help researchers construct a new narrative about what happens with individuals who experience chronic PTSD.

What is PTSD?

According to DSM-5, PTSD is characterized by exposure to a significant stressor, such as death, the threat of death, or serious injury or violence; intrusive symptoms such as nightmares or flashbacks that cause the person to unwilling relive the traumatic experience; avoidance of all stimuli that could trigger these unwanted memories or thoughts; negative changes in the person’s thoughts and feelings, such as self-isolation or excessively negative thoughts; risky behavior, hypervigilance, aggression, functional impairment, depersonalization and derealization are other symptoms (Carmassi et al., 2013). PTSD can be caused by any experience that is traumatic, even if the traumatic event is only indirectly experienced. However, PTSD is different from post-traumatic distress, which is commonly experienced by people who directly or indirectly are involved with a traumatic incident. PTSD is longer-lasting and increasingly destabilizing, whereas post-traumatic distress goes away (Giordano et al., 2016). Something about PTSD in people prevents the distress from resolving. One of the clues for why this happens may be found in the field of neuroscience.

Neuroscience and PTSD

One of the interesting pieces of information that is consistent across PTSD literature is that individuals afflicted with PTSD lose interest in the things that used to interest them (Feeny, Zoellner, Fitzgibbons & Foa, 2000; Nader, Pynoos, Fairbanks, Al?Ajeel & Al?Asfour, 1993). There is a neurological impact of not stimulating the same areas of the brain that the body is used to stimulating. When a person is dealing with PTSD, those parts of the brain become inactive and atrophy, which causes a downward spiral leading to more areas of the brain not being engaged. A shrinking left superior parietal lobule has been associated with PTSD to prove this point (Tan et al., 2013). Tan et al. (2013) found in their examination of mine disaster survivors that PTSD caused parts of the brain on both hemispheres to shrink in size and lose volume. This finding is supported by the research of Lambert and McLaughlin (2019) who show that “smaller hippocampal volume is associated with increased risk for PTSD following trauma” (p. 729). However, the problem here is that the hippocampal function is uncertain. The researchers suggest that individuals with a propensity for PTSD also have “broad impairment in hippocampus-dependent associative learning” (Lambert & McLaughlin, 2019, p. 729). In other words,…

[…… parts of this paper are missing, click here to view or download the entire document ]

…expectations and insisting that they stick with something. Kids who drop out do so because there is no one holding their feet to the fire. They are not going to be held accountable and they have not learned to hold themselves accountable, so they take the easy road out and disappear when challenges arise.

So it is a fine balance between protecting kids and nurturing and taking them out into the wild, so to speak, so they can learn to fend for themselves and grow on their own. The more challenges they face and learn to overcome the more driven and self-actualizing they will become. If they can self-actualize and become self-motivated learners, they will never fail in their academic journey. So developing grit is definitely something that teachers need to focus on. The question is: how do teachers help to develop grit in their students and what steps should they take to make sure learners are having the ability to persevere? The more focus that teachers can give on challenging students and empowering them to persevere and to want to overcome challenges, the more they may be doing to prevent the likelihood of that individual from succumbing to trauma, which the majority of people are exposed to but which the majority of people are able to process because they have developed that part of the brain linked with associative learning. The preventive factor here that could be exploited is the development of grit and determination in school children.


The neuroscience associated with PTSD has shown that brain volume is linked both with the affliction of PTSD and the vulnerability of being susceptible to PTSD. Because of the fact that most of the population experiences trauma at some point in their lives but does not become afflicted by it, there is reason to believe that the ability to process trauma may have something to do with the development of that part of the brain which allows for associative learning in the hippocampus. The failure of individuals to develop this part of the brain may put them at higher risk of PTSD, of failure to process trauma, to understand how ideas are linked to experience, and to put events behind them. Instead they are haunted by experiences of trauma because they do not understand how to process these events in a meaningful way. The more that educators do to help individuals develop this area of the brain the more they may be helping to prevent PTSD. The way for educators to do this may be to insist on the development of grit…

Sources Used in Documents:


Carmassi, C., Akiskal, H. S., Yong, S. S., Stratta, P., Calderani, E., Massimetti, E., ... & Dell'Osso, L. (2013). Post-traumatic stress disorder in DSM-5: estimates of prevalence and criteria comparison versus DSM-IV-TR in a non-clinical sample of earthquake survivors. Journal of affective disorders, 151(3), 843-848.

Chopko, B. A., & Schwartz, R. C. (2012). Correlates of career traumatization and symptomatology among active-duty police officers. Criminal Justice Studies, 25(1), 83-95.

Feeny, N. C., Zoellner, L. A., Fitzgibbons, L. A., & Foa, E. B. (2000). Exploring the roles of emotional numbing, depression, and dissociation in PTSD. Journal of traumatic stress, 13(3), 489-498.

Giordano, A. L., Prosek, E. A., Stamman, J., Callahan, M. M., Loseu, S., Bevly, C. M., ... & Chadwell, K. (2016). Addressing trauma in substance abuse treatment. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 60(2), 55.

Kang, H. K., Bullman, T. A., Smolenski, D. J., Skopp, N. A., Gahm, G. A., & Reger, M. A. (2015). Suicide risk among 1.3 million veterans who were on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Annals of epidemiology, 25(2), 96-100.

Kessler, R.C. (2000). Posttraumatic stress disorder: the burden to the individual and to society. J. Clin. Psychiatry 61 (SUPPL. 5), 4–14.

Klimova, A., Korgaonkar, M. S., Whitford, T., & Bryant, R. A. (2019). Diffusion tensor imaging analysis of mild traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder. Biological psychiatry: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging, 4(1), 81-90.

Lambert, H. K., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2019). Impaired hippocampus-dependent associative learning as a mechanism underlying PTSD: A meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 107, 729-749.

Cite This Research Paper:

"Neuroscience Associated With PTSD" (2020, May 29) Retrieved December 5, 2020, from

"Neuroscience Associated With PTSD" 29 May 2020. Web.5 December. 2020. <>

"Neuroscience Associated With PTSD", 29 May 2020, Accessed.5 December. 2020,