Brain injury scientists have long suspected a link between traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder. Interest in a possible link has risen dramatically in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the rates of soldiers suffering traumatic brain injuries in the wars has risen sharply.
Correspondingly, the rate of soldiers returning home from these wars with PTSD has also risen sharply. Scientists have queried whether this is a coincidence, whether both conditions correlate to some other factor, or whether one was causing the other. Now, a study from UCLA life scientists has for the first time provided evidence that there is, in fact, a causal link.
This study, in fact, suggests that traumatic brain injury leaves a victim with an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. This is in addition to the other lasting harms and problems triggered by traumatic brain injury. The study also found that even victims of a mild traumatic brain injury are more likely to later suffer from an anxiety disorder.
The study was published in the current issue of Biological Psychology. It was funded by the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, together with the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense. The study was conducted on rats, and used careful techniques to separate physical and emotional trauma. This was designed to undermine the suggestion that the event which caused the traumatic brain injury – such as an IED blast – was so frightening that it independently induced both conditions.
Thus, the researchers induced a concussive brain trauma without allowing the rats to experience it, and ensured that they did not feel fear. They then induced stress several days later.
What they discovered that the rats who suffered a TBI prior to the stressful situation ended up more fearful and anxiety-ridden than those who did not – and their subsequent fear was “inappropriately strong,” or out-of-proportion to the experience which induced the fear. As one of the researchers remarked, “It was as if the injury primed the brain for learning to be afraid.”
The researchers studied the rats brains and discovered that the amygdala, which is responsible for fear learning in the brain, was left in a “more excitable state” than normal.
The study was primarily targeted towards improving outcomes for soldiers who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. It has dramatic implications for other victims, as well, however. The study recommends that soldiers be pulled from combat and other high-stress situations until fully recovered from a TBI. This goes for civilian victims, as well – to avoid future anxiety disorders, it is imperative that victims keep out of high-stress situations until fully recovered.
Likewise, victims of traumatic brain injury caused by the negligence of another who subsequently develop PTSD may have a claim against the perpetrator for their condition. If you suffer a brain injury, with or without a subsequent anxiety disorder, talk to an experienced attorney about your condition and the causes of your injury. Your lawyer can help you determine whether you may have a claim, and decide whether to take legal action.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago brain injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.