This from preliminary research on animals:

By Linda Carroll

msnbc.com contributor

updated 12/15/2010 8:17:46 AM ET

Along with first aid supplies, paramedics may
one day carry a stash of pills designed to
protect patients from post-traumatic stress
disorder — at least that’s what researchers
from Northwestern University are hoping.

Scientists there have found a medication that
can prevent an exaggerated fear response in
mice very similar to PTSD in people, according
to a study just published in the journal
Biological Psychiatry.

“Someday emergency personnel could be
prepared to deliver this kind of help, just as
they do bandages,” said the study’s senior
author, Dr. Jelena Radulovic, an associate
professor of psychiatry and behavioral
sciences and Dunbar Scholar at Northwestern’
s Feinberg School of Medicine.

PTSD can develop after a frightening and
traumatizing event, such as an earthquake,
rape, or military combat. Scientists have long
suspected that the condition occurs when
something goes wrong in the brain as it tries
to deal with the aftermath of severe emotional
stress.

People with PTSD tend to be overly alert and
aroused, constantly worried that something
bad will happen, Radulovic said. This makes
them prone to insomnia and panic attacks.

Radulovic and her colleagues suspected that
traumatizing events flip a switch in the
hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in
creating new memories. In some people, that
switch gets stuck in the "on" position, leaving
hippocampal nerve cells in an overly excited
state which the brain can’t switch off on its
own.

To see if they could turn off the switch
chemically, the researchers turned to a mouse
model of PTSD. As it turns out, if you subject
mice to a series of frightening situations — in
this case, confinement and then slight shocks
— the mice will become overly frightful and
advertisementadvertisement> A pill to prevent PTSD? It could happen, study hints
Research in mice finds treatment that may protect against the condition
behave much like a person with post-
traumatic stress.

In Radulovic’s experiment, mice were given
two chemicals, known as MPEP and MTEP,
within five hours of their traumatic
experiences. Sure enough, the mice behaved
normally.

While Radulovic knows it’s a long way from
mouse experiments to human treatments, she’
s hoping that future studies will pave the way
for a simple therapy to prevent PTSD.

Dr. Steven Berkowitz, a PTSD expert
unaffiliated with the new study, said the new
results were “very exciting,” but that it's hard
to know at this early stage where the
experiments will lead.

Radulovic’s approach makes sense, said
Berkowitz, an associate professor in the
department of psychiatry at the University of
Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center
for Youth and Family Trauma Response. The
earlier you can treat someone for PTSD the
better -- whether it’s with medication or
behavioral therapy -- since it becomes
increasingly difficult to reverse changes to the
brain as time goes on, Berkowitz said.

A recent study by Berkowitz and colleagues
showed that the risk of PTSD in children could
be greatly reduced if parents and kids got
therapy within 30 days of the traumatic event.
And scientists now know that chronic PTSD
can lead to changes in the brain, including
shrinkage of certain areas. "So the sooner you
can intervene, the more able you will be to
reverse these changes," Berkowitz said.

© 2010 msnbc.com. Reprints





Edited by Ken Singer, LCSW (12/15/10 08:56 PM)