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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Post-earthquake stress

We are all aware of the difficulties of living through and after a disastrous event. There are also the difficulties of trying to understand what is happening to and within us, and others.

Some very good online articles have been published dealing with the effect of stress on Japanese earthquake and tsunami survivors. The articles are based upon research published this week in the journal Nature, Molecular Psychiatry.

Perhaps most significant for my understanding was the descriptions of physical changes to the brain (shrinkage) that were measured. Those who are predisposed towards post traumatic stress disorder (and without a brain scan, no one knows this in advance) are particularly vulnerable to changes caused by stress.  For them, shrinkage caused by stress in a particular region of the brain doesn’t have to be great to affect their responses to fear and anxiety. Symptoms will include some or all of flashbacks, emotional numbness, sleeplessness and hyper-vigilance.

Good information is available from the sites listed below (click on the name). The Nature website has an abstract, however you have to be a subscriber to access the full article. The Japan Times report is very full and makes this observation of the changes experienced:

"We think these changes are not permanent, because many past studies showed that brain changes were recovered by some therapies or interventions," said Sekiguchi. "To confirm this, we have already started to follow up the subjects."

Nature: Molecular Psychiatry

Medical Xpress

Science Mag ( American Association for the Advancement of Science)

Japan Times

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