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Monday, October 30, 2006

Combat Stress Causes Brain Changes

From the El Paso Times:

[R]eaction to the extremes of combat cause physical changes in the brain, [Dr. John Fortunato with Beaumont Army Medical Center] said. A part of the brain responsible for the "fight or flight" response can grow in size by as much as 8 percent, while the part of the brain that takes time to analyze a threatening situation can shrink by as much as 12 percent.

The longer a person is exposed to an environment where they must be hypervigilant to stay alive, the more pronounced the changes, he said. That may explain, in part, why the British, who serve six-month tours, suffer only about a 5 percent rate of PTSD compared to 18 to 20 percent for U.S. soldiers, he said, adding, "Of course, they don't do some of the heavy duty tasks our soldiers do."

The good news, Fortunato said, is that the brain can normalize over time.

The article itself is about a cavalry unit sent to Iraq as part of a combat stress-genetic link study. More >>

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