Man’s best friend helps soldiers with PTSD

Fox News

Dogs Helps Soldiers PTSDAccording to the Veteran’s Administration, 800,000 returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—and less than half will get the help they need.  But lately, these soldiers are getting a little help from man’s best friend.

Kate Revels was one of thousands of soldiers who suffered in silence from PTSD.

“There’s a certain amount of shame or guilt that you carry around with you.. in addition to feeling embarrassed,” Revels said.

Revels’ condition became so difficult to manage that she had to retire from the military and eventually start therapy.  However, it wasn’t until she was matched with a terrier mix named Raiki that she said she finally started to heal.

Full story of soldiers ptsd at Fox News

Turning Off Stress

By Medical News Today


Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect soldiers after combat or ordinary people who have undergone harrowing experiences. Of course, feelings of anxiety are normal and even desirable – they are part of what helps us survive in a world of real threats. But no less crucial is the return to normal – the slowing of the heartbeat and relaxation of tension – after the threat has passed. People who have a hard time “turning off” their stress response are candidates for post-traumatic stress syndrome, as well as anorexia, anxiety disorders and depression.

How does the body recover from responding to shock or acute stress? This question is at the heart of research conducted by Dr. Alon Chen of the Institute’s Neurobiology Department. The response to stress begins in the brain, and Chen concentrates on a family of proteins that play a prominent role in regulating this mechanism. One protein in the family – CRF – is known to initiate a chain of events that occurs when we cope with pressure, and scientists have hypothesized that other members of the family are involved in shutting down that chain. In research that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Chen and his team have now, for the first time, provided sound evidence that three family members known as urocortin 1, 2 and 3 – are responsible for turning off the stress response.

Full story at Medical News Today

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Research May Yield New Drug Targets for Memory, Anxiety Disorders

By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on January 10, 2011


A new drug target for anxiety disorders — and particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — is now possible due to a recent unexpected discovery by UCLA scientists.  Their research has honed in on neuronal gap junctions — channels in which electrical communication occurs between inhibitory neurons. 

The discovery also holds promise for Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related disorders.

“The brain has many processes we have not yet explored,” said UCLA Professor of Psychology Dr. Michael Fanselow. ”Understanding them and how they normally work can open up new approaches that may help in very prevalent and debilitating diseases, such as anxiety disorders and memory disorders.”

Gap junctions form where inhibitory neurons touch one another. They are an opening between nerve cells that allow electrical activity to pass from one neuron to another.

When an individual has a terrifying experience, there is often a lingering fear of the place where it happened. This occurs because the nerve cells in certain brain regions increase their ability to excite or stimulate one another, said Fanselow, leader of the study and member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute.

So far, most studies have emphasized that this experience happens because of the communication among neurotransmitters moving across synapses (spaces between neurons). However, there is also direct electrical contact among other small, inhibitory neurons in these areas as well, and these connect through gap junctions, Fanselow said.

“I was completely surprised by this discovery,” he added. “I really thought we were taking a long shot and was surprised that gap junctions were not only playing a role but that their importance was so great.”

Interestingly, these gap junctions are very common in invertebrates but rare in mammals, where they can only be found on certain inhibitory interneurons.

“Because of this, no one has looked at the importance of these gap junctions for learning, memory and emotion,” Fanselow said. “We hypothesized that these gap junctions may be very important. Because the gap junctions cause the inhibitory neurons to fire together, they may cause these inhibitory neurons to act as a pacemaker for the excitatory neurons, making them fire at the same time so they are better able to make fear memories.”

The study included the use of several drugs that block gap junctions in rats, and it was discovered that because the medications disrupted vital rhythms in the dorsal hippocampus (a brain region most associated with cognition), they were able to keep any “fear of place” memories from forming.

The drug injections worked when given right after a frightening experience, revealing that they could be particularly useful for PTSD.  Also, the drugs were just as effective when regularly injected into a cavity near the abdomen as when put directly into the brain.

“Because we don’t know when a person will experience trauma, treatments that can work after the experience hold more promise,” Fanselow said.

“Our research shows a way that neurons can coordinate their activity, and this coordination is critical for memory formation,” Fanselow said. “Perhaps if we had a way of enhancing gap junction function, we may improve memory formation by facilitating gap junctions when memory is impaired by diseases such as Alzheimer’s. However, we have not shown this yet.”

Fanselow noted that the formation of fear memories is what drives anxiety disorders, which are quite common and can be very debilitating. “Gap junctions appear to be key in coordinating the activity of the network of neurons that produce fear memories, specifically, and probably other memories, generally, as well,” he said.

Source:  University of California

Source Site: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/10/research-may-yield-new-drug-targets-for-memory-anxiety-disorders/22437.html

Fear of Success

by Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., MFT


“Why are some people afraid to succeed but not to fail? Why are some more afraid of failure? How can one learn to embrace these two fears? What is the difference between them?”

A young Canadian woman wrote to me recently with these inquiries. I thought they were excellent questions, and decided to share my thoughts and findings here.

We are all so complex, and the way we react to situations and anticipate results is based on many physiological and psychological factors. So many, in fact, that it can be difficult to generalize why different personality types might handle success versus failure in such drastically polarized ways.

As a psychologist specializing in trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I’ve had firsthand experience coaching clients whose past experience feeds their current fear of success. For them, the excitement of success feels uncomfortably close to the feeling of arousal they experienced when subjected to a traumatic event or multiple events. (This feeling of arousal can be linked to sexuality, in certain cases where trauma has been experienced in that realm, but that is not always the case.) People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success.

There is another layer to the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up” – which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us-especially if we’ve been subject to verbal abuse-have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don’t deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy.

In order to have a healthy relationship with success (and it’s flip side, failure, or disappointment), the first step is to learn to differentiate between feelings of excitement and a “trauma reaction.”

Here is an easy exercise:

  1. Recall an event where you were successful or excited when you were younger, and notice what you are feeling and sensing in your memory. Stay with the sensation of for 5 minutes. 
  2. Recall an event where you were successful and excited recently in your life, and notice what you are feeling and sensing. Stay with this sensation of for 5 minutes.
  3. Now tap into the sensation of a memory of an overwhelming situation. I suggest not to start with a truly traumatic event, at least not without a therapist’s support. Start with something only moderately disturbing to you. 
  4. Now, go back to visualizing your success story. Do you notice a difference?

While corresponding with the young Canadian woman, I asked her to do look up bodily response to fear and excitement and let me know what she found. This is what she wrote back:

“I was looking up how the body responds to fear, and it said that when we sense fear the brain transmits signals and our nervous system kicks, in causing our breathing to quicken, our heart race to increase… we become sweaty, and we run on instinct. When we get excited or enthusiastic, doesn’t our nervous system work the same way?”

I assured her that, yes, the physical reactions to stress and to excitement are very similar. So, when we experience a traumatic event—such as a car accident or a school bullying incident—our body associates the fear we experience with the same physiological feelings we get while excited. Once we have been through enough trauma, we start to avoid those types of situations that trigger memories of fear. For this reason, trauma victims can tend to avoid excitement, and that can lead them to avoid success.

I work with trauma victims to get past their fears and associations and help them embrace and follow the path to success and healthy recovery.