Decreased prefrontal connectivity in a patient with PTSD prior to treatment

The human brain has a phenomenal ability to process all kinds of stimuli and events that can occur throughout our lives, but sometimes when we have extremely painful or frightening experiences, they can overwhelm this capacity. These traumatic events can have a lasting effect on the brain’s ability to function properly, causing impairments, personality changes, and lasting feelings of stress or mental unwellness that severely impact your ability to live normally.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have persistent nightmares surrounding a single or series of terrifying events from their past. It may also cause avoidance of specific situations that trigger a fight-or-flight response associated with past trauma. PTSD can affect sleep, job performance, romantic relationships – virtually every facet of day-to-day life. This is not an uncommon condition, affecting an estimated 7% of the population at large and up to 20% of US military veterans. 

What are the causes of PTSD?

Normal prefrontal connectivity in healthy volunteers matching age/sex

PTSD typically emerges in the aftermath of either witnessing or being subjected to a violent or terrifying event. Some of the causes include accidents, physical or sexual assaults, natural disasters, or other situations in which there was an imminent threat of death or bodily harm. It is particularly common in current and former military members who have been present for scenes of extreme wartime violence. The cause of PTSD may be a single event or several occurrences which build up over the course of time, such as in an adverse living situation or abusive relationship. 

What are the signs & symptoms of PTSD?

Tension and worry are things that we all deal with in our lives, but PTSD symptoms are distinct from the signs of ordinary stress. While PTSD can vary in its symptoms and severity, it typically manifests in four main ways.

Intrusive Thoughts

One of the common symptoms of PTSD is intrusive thoughts or memories, which can include recurring nightmares about the traumatic event in question or flashbacks to the moment of trauma. This may happen with no discernible warning or be triggered by something that reminds you of the traumatic occurrence.

Avoidance of Triggers

People with PTSD may find themselves becoming severely avoidant of any thought patterns or stimulus that connect with their trauma. This may involve staying away from physical locations, visiting locations, or participating in situations that have some association with the traumatic event.

Changes to Mood & Thought Patterns

PTSD can have a dramatic impact on your mood, causing feelings of depression or hopelessness, as well as guilt, shame, or self-loathing. People suffering from PTSD may be distrustful or suspicious of others and less inclined to form friendships or romantic relationships. PTSD has also been associated with cognitive difficulties and memory loss.

Changes to Reactivity & Emotional Arousal

A few other issues that can often result from PTSD include mood swings, irritability, or the feeling of being constantly “on edge” without apparent reason. People with PTSD may be easily startled or quick to anger and can have difficulty sleeping or focusing on everyday tasks. Reckless or self-destructive behaviors such as drug abuse can also be a sign of PTSD.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

You should consult with a mental health professional if you are having the above symptoms such as recurring unwanted thoughts about a traumatic event for a lengthy period of time, or if they are so severe that they are having a serious negative impact on your daily life. An initial psychiatric consultation will involve a review of your symptoms and personal background.

At Neurotherapeutix, our unique functional MRI technology allows us to more accurately pinpoint how the brain is being affected by post-traumatic stress. Research has identified the specific networks of the brain which are typically being impacted by PTSD. An fMRI scan allows us to map the function of these networks and determine which neural tracks are impaired or improperly functioning.

How is PTSD treated?

There are several methods which may be helpful for some people with PTSD. Group therapy sessions can allow patients to meet with others who have experienced similar trauma and work together to build human connections and support networks. Some types of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be useful in identifying the negative thought patterns caused by PTSD and learning effective coping mechanisms for dealing with them.

While there are pharmacological treatments that have been FDA approved for the treatment of PTSD, it is important to note that these have not demonstrated a particularly high success rate. Some research indicates that as few as one-third of PTSD patients will achieve clinical remission using medications. 

Functional imaging guided TMS for PTSD treatment

Standard TMS has shown in many cases to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD. However, PTSD does not uniformly affect all the neural networks of the brain, meaning that a more focused and targeted approach can vitally improve on the effectiveness of treatment. At Neurotherapeutix, we offer exactly this type of approach. Through extensive study of the brain’s PTSD responses, we have designed a specialized guided TMS approach for targeting the specific neural networks that are affected.

During the first appointment with Neurotherapeutix, we use our innovative functional MRI technology to construct a detailed map of the patient’s brain function and observe the neural networks involved in PTSD, identifying abnormal neuronal activities in the brain. Based on this information, we will design a fully personalized guided TMS treatment plan for each patient to target and restore normal functions to these neural pathways.

Over the course of several sessions, we will continue to assess the ongoing progress of treatment and adjust where needed to provide greater relief from the intrusive thoughts and other issues which define PTSD symptoms. Many of our patients begin to see noticeable positive results within a matter of weeks after beginning treatment. TMS is not only more effective at treating PTSD than pharmaceutical medications, but it is also non-invasive and has negligible side effects.


Meet Neurotherapeutix NYC

Neurotherapeutix is the leading clinic for functional imaging guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a safe, innovative, and non-invasive methodology for treating a wide range of acute and chronic mental disorders and brain injuries. Our advanced fMRI technology allows us to map the brain for the... Learn More »