I have done extensive research on all of the medications that Pat has taken. When I consider the mind altering effects of these medications, and couple that with the information concerning the physical damage that appears to occur in the brain due to PTSD – no wonder Patrick is where he is.
I want to get him out of where he is and get him into this study that is being done at the VA in San Francisco.
In July 2008 San Francisco physicist Norbert Schuff presented captivating information during a conference attended by leading neurologists from the area. This conference took place at San Franciso’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Schuff displayed colorful images of the brains of U.S. soldiers who had served in combat and who were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Additionally, there were images of the brains of soldiers who had not been diagnosed with PTSD. Schuff contends that the differences in images in these two groups is a marker that PTSD has a physical effect on the brain. He cautioned that this research is in infancy stages, but contends that one day specialists will be able to look at a computer screen and see PTSD as clearly as they now see a brain tumor!
While reviewing the images Schuff, outlined the areas of the brain possibly affected by PTSD. The yellow areas of the images represented where the hippocampus, which plays major roles in short-term memory and emotions, had atrophied. (Atrophy is wasting away of muscle, tissue or mass). The red areas of the scans marked hyperfusion - increased blood flow - in the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for conflict resolution and decision-making.
A comparison of the scans to a soldier’s scans without PTSD revealed the PTSD brain had lost 5 to 10 percent of its gray matter volume.
Without proper treatment, clinicians say patients with PTSD are more likely to engage in anti-social behaviors. The disorder, neurologists are now learning, can also lead to long-term maladies, such as Alzheimer's and dementia. That was recently reported in USA Today on July 13.
This study is part of the Defense Department’s $78 million investment in San Francisco's Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the VA center over the past four years, making it the largest VA research institute in the country and the only one that specializes in neuroscience.
The search for these PTSD biological markers through brain imagining is the primary concern of five research centers in the country, including teams at Harvard and Emory universities. Researchers believe that once the markers are defined, successful treatments can be developed. (1)
There are other PTSD related researches on-going at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. One being conducted by Dr. Lynn Pulliam is trying to establish a blood profile to diagnose PTSD. Using gene array technology, researchers will be able to take an RNA test, much like a DNA test, to determine whether a patient "tests positive" for PTSD. (1)Dr. Pulliam’s research coincides with information released on July 20, 2009 by Allostatix, a wellness company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. (2)
The company is trying to broker a deal with the Department of Defense based on the idea that its blood test can act as an early warning system to predict which soldiers will struggle most with PTSD.
The blood test measures “allostatic load”. I had to go look that one up. Complicated, but the concept is that the body’s stress response can accelerate disease and affect organs.
Four conditions that lead to allostatic load are:
- Repeated frequency of stress responses to multiple novel stressors;
- Failure to habituate to repeated stressors of the same kind;
- Failure to turn off each stress response in a timely manner due to delayed shut down; and
- Inadequate response that leads to compensatory hyperactivity of other mediators.
(I got that from Wikipedia)
Allostatix’s test measures the damage and predicts (as far as five years out with 85 percent accuracy, according to the company) where a person’s health is heading.
Allostatix hopes to test 10,000 members of the military and about 5,000 spouses, and follow them for about two years, said Dr. Robert Ludke, a partner in Allostatix and a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Health at the University of Cincinnati. Participants would be tested before and after deployment.
Allostatix President Gordon Horwitz said if there is a connection between PTSD and allostatic load, the tests could help contribute to battle-readiness reports and provide help earlier to soldiers more likely to have problems. (2)
So perhaps modern technology will help alleviate the pain and agony our military members and their families go through during the battle after the war.
I just wish this all could have happened soon enough for Patrick.
1) San Francisco Chronicle; Justin Berton, July 27, 2008
2) Mid City News; Chris Seper, July 20, 2009