How PTSD affects Brain Function

The more research I do to understand my own PTSD and how to deal with it, the more it drives me down the rabbit hole of neuroscience and how PTSD affects your brain functioning.  I came across this interesting article that links the physical brain characteristics that are different from those who suffer from PTSD vs. those who don’t.

The article delves into 2 facets of the brain:


Is responsible for the “fight or flight” response and how we deal with threats (as well as other cognitive relationships).  These are 2 little almond shaped parts found deep inside the brain.  From what I’ve researched thus far, there is a direct relation to increased activity of the amygdala and those who have PTSD.  The direct effect of this is an immediate response with an increase of chemicals which puts us on high alert.  There also may be an increase in the size of the amygdala which also seems to support this claim.

Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)

Is responsible for decision making, regulating emotions (and a host of other things).  This is the mass of brain found just behind the forehead.  Those with PTSD tend to have a reduced amount of activity in this part of the brain.  Again, the direct effect of this, as you can well imagine, is an impairment to regulate the emotions brought on by the amygdala’s over activity.  As well, there is reduced problem solving and decision making capabilities.

So basically, the amygdala over-reacts and the prefrontal cortex has a difficult time regulating the result.  This is just one aspect of how, physically, PTSD affects your brain functioning.

That being said, the brain is such a fantastic, ever changing organ.  As we now know with the study of neuroplasticity, it constantly changes and creates new pathways.  Through different types of therapies, things can be reverted to a more “in line” state.  One of the big ones is mindfulness.  I’ve discussed the benefits of meditation in this article already.

For whatever reason, I’m really fascinated by the scientific aspect of this, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it along with the article.  If you enjoyed it or feel it can help someone, please share it.

As well, here is a curated article on why it seems that soldiers from the IDF suffer less with PTSD than in other countries.  I believe that there is some merit to their conclusions.

PTSD can cause serious disruption in the ability to have healthy, satisfying relationships or tolerate life’s uncertainties, failures, and rejections without excess distress. It can also cause phobias, sleep disturbance, negative mood, anxiety, and attention/concentration difficulties that interfere with academic or career success.

Research in neuroscience suggests impaired functioning in brain areas responsible for threat detection/response and emotion regulation account for many PTSD symptoms.

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