Brain Awareness Week, March 12-18, 2018, is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, sponsored by the Dana Foundation. Psychiatric disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are brain disorders that result from imbalances of chemical messengers (i.e., neurotransmitters) or problems with brain pathways. Even though much progress has been made in treating psychiatric disorders with medication and psychotherapy, many people continue to have symptoms that lead to impairment in quality of life or functioning. There remains a need for additional research and more advanced treatments for PTSD.

CESAMH researchers are actively conducting studies of the brain in order to identify new treatments for PTSD. For example, Dr. Victoria Risbrough’s laboratory investigates areas of the brain that demonstrate how fear and anxiety are learned so that novel treatments can be developed to disrupt this learning.  Similarly, Dr. Alan Simmons’ research group uses brain-imaging techniques to identify abnormalities in brain activity underlying trauma-related disorders, such as PTSD. In addition, several CESAMH researchers are developing innovative psychotherapies to assist Veterans who have PTSD combined with substance use, sleep, and pain disorders.

New areas of study in psychiatric disorders involve understanding interactions of the brain and processes involving inflammation, glucose metabolism and response to stress. CESAMH investigators are examining these neurobiological relationships associated with PTSD that may help us to predict who might respond to which treatments.