Study: PTSD Effects Sensitivity to Pain
> 1/9/2007 12:08:04 PM

In a report that appears in the January edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers have shown that war veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder have an altered response to painful stimuli when compared to war veterans not afflicted with PTSD. The team that performed the study collected data by applying specific temperatures to subjects hands and recording the reported levels of pain by participants. They also measured brain activity during stimulation. As CNN reports:

When exposed to the same temperatures, PTSD patients rated them as being less painful than did the comparison group, Dr. Elbert Geuze, from the Central Military Hospital in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and colleagues report. Similarly, the temperatures that elicited the same subjective pain rating were higher in participants with PTSD than in the others.

During testing, PTSD subjects displayed increased or decreased activation of several different regions of the brain, compared with the veterans without PTSD.

The study's abstract gives a little more info on this second point (sadly, you'll need an Archives login to get the full report):

In the fixed-temperature condition, patients with PTSD revealed increased activation in the left hippocampus and decreased activation in the bilateral ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the right amygdala. In the individual temperature condition, patients with PTSD showed increased activation in the right putamen and bilateral insula, as well as decreased activity in the right precentral gyrus and the right amygdala.

The group's conclusion, which gels with some previous study while refuting other research, is that PTSD correlates with decreased pain sensitivity. Their group of subjects was small in this study, and the very nature of the research may prohibit a massive test, but certainly further research will be necessary to ferret out the exact connection between PTSD and reactions to painful stimuli. In either case, this is certainly news that those who treat PTSD sufferers should be aware of. While the implications for the daily lives of those affected would seem to be minimal, this link may point to other issues that arise concomitantly with PTSD.


From my personal experience I would agree with this. Greater sensitivity to emotional/psychological stress, pertinent environmental cues, but physically desensitised to a degree.Fascinating.
Posted by: DrDork 1/9/2007 5:52:25 AM

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