Understanding Bad Memories: What causes PTSD?
Dr. Joseph LeDoux and other research scientists at New York University’s Emotional Brain Institute and at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have been working to understand the neurological basis for the coding of traumatic memory in the brain. Using a theory known as Hebbian Plasticity, scientists focused on the role of the amygdala in creating memory. They found that strong emotional content was associated with more neurons firing which they believe strengthened the memory. Individuals with PTSD experience a variety of memory associated symptoms such as “Flashbacks” in which they re-experience painful memories elicited by exposure to specific stimuli, including their own thoughts. PTSD is a difficult disorder for the person and can present many problems in treatment.
Dr. LeDoux’s study is helping to create an understanding of the creation of the persistent memory problems that are seen in PTSD. Their approach recognizes that “neurons that fire together, wire together” will help unravel PTSD and lead to better treatment options.