Researchers at Tel Aviv University are using brain imaging to identify who may be more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder. The hope is to develop early or preventative intervention.
The project uses electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map the areas of the brain that regulate the emotional responses to traumatic stress, then decode the brain functionality that indicates susceptibility to PTSD.
The earlier and more accurately PTSD is diagnosed, the more likely a health care provider can treat it, the researchers said. The research findings also could be used to monitor people who are at high risk for developing PTSD, such as soldiers in combat.
For the study, participants were monitored using EEG, which records electrical activity along the scalp, and fMRI, which measures changes in blood oxygenation in the brain.
Connections between the emotional and cognitive areas of the brain were recorded as subjects were exposed to continuous stimulations designed to cause stress and other emotions, such as horror and sadness.
Using advanced computational algorithms, the researchers identified the brain activity that was connected to the reported emotional experience. This brain marking will provide targets for therapeutic procedures based on a person’s individual brain activity, the researchers explain.
Ultimately, the researchers hope to develop a portable brain monitoring machine that will “enable the detection or quantification of the emotional state of people suffering from trauma,” allowing for minimally invasive monitoring or diagnosis, says Intrator.
He noted he is also working on applying this technology to the diagnosis of other psychological disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In the case of ADHD, for example, a machine could be used to monitor the level of concentration in a patient, and provide feedback that could help to regulate medicine, such as the dosage of Ritalin.