Last fall, we wrote a blog post about a government study on brain injuries in military veterans. Essentially, that study was inconclusive: researchers recognized that many veterans who suffer head traumas later experience negative consequences, but they ultimately determined that more research was needed to understand the true effect of brain injuries during military service. You can read more about that study in our earlier personal injury blog post.
However, a recent study may have uncovered an important breakthrough for veterans who suffered head or brain injuries during military service. Specifically, researchers found evidence of a causal link between a traumatic brain injury and an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the study, which was conducted on rats, researchers utilized "fear conditioning" on the test subjects two days following a concussive brain trauma. Rats who had not suffered such an injury also went through fear conditioning. Researchers reportedly found that the rats who had experienced the brain injury displayed more fear than the rats who did not suffer similar head traumas.
Researchers are not yet sure of the reasons for the apparent link between brain injuries and PTSD. For example, it is not yet clear whether PTSD simply results from the often-stressful events that cause brain injury, such as motor vehicle accidents or military service. It is certain that additional research will be done on the topic in the coming months and years.
Brain injuries are an increasingly common occurrence among members of the military. In the last 10 years, the number of head traumas suffered by military service men and women has tripled from 11,000 to about 30,000.
Source: Psych Central, "Brain Injury Linked to Higher Risk for PTSD, Anxiety Disorders," Traci Pedersen, Feb. 19, 2012