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UCLA study: Evidence shows causal link between TBI, stress disorder

Many military veterans -- especially combat soldiers who saw active duty in the Middle East -- experienced the oft-described "signature wound" of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while fighting overseas. That in turn has led to what brain injury experts note is a particularly high correlation between TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among war veterans.

Medical researchers have been strongly intrigued by that and, following funding received from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense and the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, a major study has just concluded and released findings concerning such a connection.

The study, which was recently published in the journal Biological Psychology, studied the alleged connection between TBI and the subsequent development of an anxiety disorder in laboratory rats.

Researchers say they have definitely found a causal link between TBI and PTSD -- the first such evidence ever -- and that the laboratory results can be extrapolated to strongly infer that humans who suffer from a brain injury -- even a comparatively minor one -- have some propensity for developing a stress disorder.

As to why that is, study scientists carefully qualify their answers. It might simply be the case, they say, that the connection might be incidental and owing primarily to the fact that events causing a brain injury are often frightening and traumatic in themselves. That is certainly the case with many veterans returning home with head injuries.

Conversely, though, researchers say that TBI and a subsequent stress disorder "could be linked in a more mechanistic way."

Additional studies that develop upon the UCLA findings are likely to be forthcoming.

Source: News Medical, "Traumatic brain injury linked to PTSD: UCLA study," Feb. 16, 2012

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*Certified Specialist in Injury and Wrongful Death Litigation by the State Bar of Arizona, Board of Legal Specialization