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The Military Science Technology

New Brain Scans Can Spot PTSD 107

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-call-it-shellshock-again dept.
Neuroscientists think they may have found a scientific method to identify post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using a brain imaging method called magnetoencephalography (MEG). In the test study, the scientists studied 74 vets with PTSD and 250 civilians without and were able to spot the PTSD sufferers with 90% accuracy. "MEG machines are a fast, sensitive and accurate way to measure electric activity in the brain. Whereas CT scans and MRIs record brain signals every few seconds, MEGs can do it by the millisecond, catching biomarkers and brain activity that the other tests inevitably miss. The study could be a breakthrough for the military, who've been scrambling to address a surge in post-traumatic symptoms among newly returning vets. Right now, troops are evaluated by mental health experts, but diagnosis is a crap-shoot: symptoms can take years to show up, and vary from person to person, even among those exposed to the same traumas. The Pentagon's already been pushing for more objective, systematized diagnosis tools, like portable at-home sleep monitors and genetic testing to detect PTSD vulnerability. They've even launched a program to create stress-mitigating pharmaceuticals."
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New Brain Scans Can Spot PTSD

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  • by dobedobedew (663137) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:55PM (#30862736)
    So if you are in the 10% that doesn't get detected you're SOL? I hope they can increase the accuracy of this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)

      the other 10% are just faking it for the VA benefits.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:47PM (#30863246)

        Not for nothing, but I went 20 years without being diagnosed. I understand the attempt at humor, but it isn't funny to me.

        PTSD is not just some dude screaming "incoming" and diving under the table at Thanksgiving. It has a measurable effect upon every decision in a person's life. Just stepping into a restaurant is a tense and fearful experience that can last for hours. Hours in which I must scan every person coming into the room for potential threats, monitor the exits, sit so that no one can approach me without my knowing. My family knows that to catch my unawares is, at the very best, a chance to have me yell at them as if they'd done something wrong by entering the same room without announcing themselves.

        When I head into wallmart, I have to plan my route to minimize the stress, I use weird checkout methods, like buying a box of vitamins and then doing my checkout at the pharmacy to avoid the lines where I am vulnerable to attack. For 20 years I thought that everyone looked between the parked cars as they walked down the street, planned the move to cover in case there was gunfire, looked at every window and rooftop for snipers. I didn't realize that what I took for survival instinct was way beyond what almost everyone else did to safe guard themselves. I have been emotionally removed from my daughter's entire life, I have no emotional reaction to the suffering of others, as I instinctively believe that it is their fault for not being ready to deal with whatever the situation.

        If this technology can help get people diagnosed and in a proper treatment regimen, then it is a worth while venture. A 10% miss beats 40% (http://ajol.info/index.php/ajpsy/article/viewFile/30263/30480)[pdf]

        I for one, salute our new MEG Overloards

        • by Abreu (173023)

          No mod points today, so I just want to say thank you for your informative and sobering post.

        • by Loopy (41728)

          I can confirm this. My brother has PTSD and it has broad-ranging impacts on so many things he does that there is no such thing as "normal" for him anymore. And he's still one of the most sane people I know. If this will get them to the point where they can quickly confirm the obvious cases so that the doctors are freed up to be more thorough with the borderline folks, I think that would be a great thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MmmmAqua (613624)
          I'm with you. It has only been five years for me, but a more objective assessment would have helped me a great deal.

          I had a four-year fight with the VA to get service-connected for PTSD. After indisputable records of many, many combat stressors, four years of the VA mental health clinical team regularly putting full, five-axis PTSD diagnoses in their chart notes, and my career devolving from well-paid Solaris systems engineer to unemployment, my claims and appeals were denied by bureaucrats who had never
        • I understand the other measures, but how does checking out in the pharmacy make you less vulnerable to attack?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by moj0joj0 (1119977)

            The pharmacy is a good one, but the jewelry counter (unless it is right out in the open) or automotive center is also good.

            --The location of the pharmacy for one, usually in a less traveled section of the store.
            --Less people check out there for two, so there are fewer eyes on you as you are getting your stuff checked out.
            --It usually has at least some soft cover or concealment for three.
            --Also, it is an unexpected location to be checking out (never take the same route twice).

        • Hi.

          Thank you for sharing your story. I can't imagine what other difficulties you're going through besides the one you've mentioned, but I'm taking a wild guess here: it isn't easy being you.

          And I don't think I can say anything other than this: I wish you the best of luck in living a happy, fulfilling live, whatever that means to you, and I hope your limitations won't get too much in the way of that.

    • by Ann O'Nymous-Coward (460094) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:02PM (#30862834)

      IF they can really achieve 90% detection rate (and that's a huge if), then that'd be hugely impressive.

      FYI, Mammograms only have roughly an 80% chance of detecting breast cancer. http://breastscreening.cancer.gov/data/performance/diagnostic/rate_age_time.html [cancer.gov]

      Rates of detection of other cancers are often much worse. And rates of early detection (as opposed to self-report) of mental illnesses are worse again.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        An interesting point is that they don't distinguish in any of TFAs whether they're talking false negatives, false positives, or a combination. Separate rates would matter.
        • That IS a very interesting point indeed. It's impossible to know how effective any detection system is, without knowing false alarm rate as well as hit rate.

        • by j1m+5n0w (749199)
          Another thing I'm curious about (I expect it's probably addressed in the paper) is that they're comparing military personnel with PTSD against civilians without PTSD. Did they include any military personnel without PTSD, or civilians with PTSD? I would not be surprised if simply being in the military (I.e. the different discipline, training, lifestyle, experiences, etc... ) would alter the brain in a measurable way, and they would have to be careful that that isn't what they're seeing.
      • Well, I tracked down the actual article and the accuracy is actually quite overstated. One of the problems in creating diagnostic tests is setting all of the dials to optimize performance on the particular dataset. The 90% rate is an overall rate. Note that if you did something stupid like saying no one had PTSD then you would be right in their dataset 250/324 = 77% of the time. Their optimized performance (which would probably never be repeated in another dataset) produces a lot of false positives (31/103
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054)

      Its not the only diagnostic tool in the kit. In fact you probably wouldn't even encounter this device if you weren't showing some symptoms.

      90% of anything detected by brain imaging is pretty amazing, since even tumors can't always be spotted.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:05PM (#30862864) Journal
      Anybody who would use the test, in its current form, as an automated "confirm/deny" mechanism deserves a punch in the face. However, the establishment of a fairly reliable correlation between a psychological condition that could previously only be diagnosed subjectively("subjectively" in the sense that the patient has to introspect and report symptoms for a diagnosis to be made, not in the "Oh, its just subjective, it must just be you" sense) and an objectively measurable electrical phenomenon is pretty cool.

      It is more or less a commonplace, for anybody not deeply in the grips of some metaphysical or dualist theory, that psychological phenomena must have material correlates; but actually hunting them down and making them useful is fairly tricky work.
      • Seriously, Slashdot moderation has become a wretched hive of reactionary scum who downmod anything they don't want to hear. The parent post is far from being a troll.

      • by PFactor (135319)
        I'm gonna have to agree with Spun. Whoever meta-moderates this thread needs to look into whoever labeled the parent post "troll".
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ubrgeek (679399)
          You're absolutely right. In fact, I was going to use some of my mod points to do just that - mark him as a troll. But I re-read and think his points are valid and even insightful (sans the punch-in-the-face component.) But, the poor choice of moderation points applies to ArsonSmith's posting as well. While his attempt may be at humor, it wasn't funny. It was the equivalent of posting a comment to a story about some new test being able to detect HIV early on and saying, "Hey! At least now they'll know your i
          • People mod prison rape up all the time. Some folks find shit funny that you don't find funny. It happens.

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      I believe that was 10% incorrectly. So, we could assume it to be:

      10% of the patients tested positive and did NOT have PTSD
      10% of the patients tested negative but DID have PTSD
      or even.
      10% did not believe they had PTSD, but actually did.

      They'll need a much better sample group to get some real numbers with. 10% is 30 people. They could have been wrong, undiagnosed previously, or lied for whatever reason. Some people don't want to talk about their pains. Our inner demons are b

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:58PM (#30862776) Homepage Journal
    From TFS:

    using a brain imaging method call magnetoencephalography (MEG)

    > line 1: method magnetoencephalography(java/lang/String;) not found

    • also:
      > line 1: Constant MEG not defined.
      > Did you mean:
      * Methylecgonidine, a byproduct of smoked crack cocaine
      * Madras Engineer Group — a regiment of the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army
      * Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline
      * MEG, the NYSE stock ticker symbol for Media General
      * Midland Examining Group, a defunct examination board in the UK
      * Mono ethylene glycol, a chemical compound widely used as an automotive antifreeze
      * Motionless electromagn

  • MEGs can do it by the millisecond, catching biomarkers and brain activity that the other tests inevitably miss. How long until we have these in our airports?
    • by icebike (68054)

      Or more on point, how long till there is an effective treatment for something that manifests itself with brain changes that can't be measured in seconds.

  • False positives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:59PM (#30862790) Homepage Journal

    Spotting 100% is easy: you just need a machine with a blinking light that says "PTSD". Unfortunately that puts a lot of healthy people in therapy.

    Nobody expects Wired to figure that out, but the original press release [eurekalert.org] (scavenged from the array of irrelevant links) doesn't say, either.

    I assume that the actual article (in the Journal of Neural Engineering) actually says something about it. Anybody got a subscription?

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      It sounds a lot like they want to spot people who don't think they have PTSD, as opposed to validating claims by those that say they do. If you are willing to say you have PTSD, it needs to be taken seriously regardless of how your brain looks. However, if you have effects of PTSD that haven't manifested yet, they want to have a better chance at finding that out to treat it early on. In the case of a false positive and you don't really have PTSD, just take the opportunity to get really well acquainted wi

      • by jfengel (409917)

        just take the opportunity to get really well acquainted with your therapist.

        Assuming you can get one. If the false-positive rate is too high, it means you have a lot of people in treatment unnecessarily, taking time and resources away from those who really do need help.

        I imagine that the original article gives the false-positive rate and that it's acceptably low. I'm just irked about the quality of science reporting that doesn't ask these questions, which should be the first thing on a scientist's mind.

    • Re:False positives (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tacvek (948259) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:12PM (#30864328) Journal

      Sure, My university has a subscription. Let me give you the numbers:

      Test subjects:
      All 75 test group members had confirmed PTSD as the primary diagnosis, using the standard structured clinical interviews for PTSD. There were many variations as to cause of PTSD some from combat others from before they became soldiers. 69 test subjects were male, and 5 were women.

      Control group:
      250 members from the general public in the same age range as the test subjects. 151 men, 49 women.
      Complete nurological histories, and multiple interview examinations were performed to help exclude general public members with latent PTSD.

      The test with the paramters used by the team had the following results:

      72 true positives.
      2 false negatives.
      31 false positives.
      219 true negatives.

      According to the paper this is
      97.3% Sensitivity
      87.6% Specificity
      92.4% Accuracy
      Chi squared-statistic: 189.8
      P value: .001
      phi coefficient: .765
      odds ratio: 254.3

      • by winwar (114053)

        Wow. The numbers suck worse than I thought.

        31 false positives!?!

        Is it really cheaper (and better) to use an expensive test to screen and use specialists to weed out the false positives?

        Is the military culture really that bad? Is the mental health services and people really that poor?

        I realize that this is a brand new test but if it is this bad on a known population with existing symptoms it is not likely to be useful on people without symptoms or with newly emerging symptoms. Worthy of research but the r

        • Worthy of research but the reporters should be sent into combat with dowsing rods to detect mines. In short, all hype, no substance.

          Useful science != stellar results.

      • by Tacvek (948259)

        Correction. There were 74 test group members. I though I fixed that typo.

  • so the nexus six can't be far off

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nexus_Six [wikipedia.org]

    and now, with this article, we have the invention of the voight-kampff machine

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voight-Kampff_machine [wikipedia.org]

    blade runner future, here we come!

    when do we get japanese geisha noodle commercials with japanese classical music projected onto blimps?

  • by NevarMore (248971) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:01PM (#30862812) Homepage Journal

    "scientists studied 74 vets with PTSD and 250 civilians "

    Is it possible that they aren't spotting PTSD but a wiring from a soldier? I am a civillian with NO military experience, but I do hang around several soldiers and police officers. Each group has similar mannerisms and they have ALL had similar experiences within that group (basic training for the green guys, the academy for the blue ones). I see a good chance that this new scan could be picking that up.

    A more valid group would be:
      - some vets without PTSD
      - some vets with PTSD
      - some civillians with PTSD
      - some civillians without PTSD

    Of those four groups some significant correlation would be helpful too. For example a set of soldiers from Afghanistan with and without PTSD. A set of civillians that had been through the same or similar trauma (say armed robbery or 9/11 or plane accident). Breaking it down by age would also be useful, a Vietnam veteran who has had a few years either with or without treatment would be a lot different than a recent return home from the Sandbox.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Also,

      symptoms can take years to show up

      Would the machine be able to tell either? It could be that the brain changes over time (as a person relives the trauma) that makes the symptoms visible.

    • by pz (113803) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:55PM (#30863364) Journal

      These are valid concerns.

      The study was published in J. Neural Engineering which, regrettably, my institution does not have a subscription to, so can't be as well-informed as I'd like, unfortunately. Nevertheless, the research was headed by Dr. Apostolos Gerogropoulos, whom I know professionally and by his research publications. Now, Dr. Georgopoulos is no fool. His research team certainly must have thought about these potential issues. There's a hint at why the study might be considered valid despite what at first blush seems like a lack of proper controls in the press release: "the researchers also are able to judge the severity of how much [subjects with PTSD] are suffering," Proper controls (ie, soldiers without PTSD) are necessary, but if there's a good correlation between the observed MEG phenomena and the strength of clinical findings, then maybe the study really has discovered something interesting.

      • The article even explicitly says:

        Next up, the researchers want to evaluate 500 vets, alongside 500 civilians, to further validate their findings.

        It sounds like a case of "well we didn't have enough grant money to do this study properly this time around, but our results still look promising! I'm sure some more grant money would give really conclusive results! *waggles eyebrows suggestively*"

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The article even explicitly says:

          Next up, the researchers want to evaluate 500 vets, alongside 500 civilians, to further validate their findings.

          It sounds like a case of "well we didn't have enough grant money to do this study properly..."

          Rightly or wrongly, there's an absolute boatload of money being thrown at the US military. If researchers wants a piece of that gravy train, they're going to have to make it mostly about the military - if it started to look like they were helping victims of domestic violence with PTSD, for example, the Republicans would be on them like pit bulls on a granny.

      • Sorry, all I got out of that was, "He's my buddy, he wouldn't miss something obvious like that."

        Science only works to the extent that such defenses are insufficient.

    • I was going make a related point, but didn't want to be redundant, so I'm piggybacking on your post. My point is tangenial to yours. PTSD is not exclusive to the Military. Rape victims often have it, as one example of many. It is a non-linearity in the precognitive response mechanism of the brain (the Amygdala.) Furthermore, you can be a civilian who has it and go undiagnosed for your entire life. Typically the memories related to the cause of the PTSD are suppressed to the subconscious, and the suffe
  • They've even launched a program to create stress-mitigating pharmaceuticals.

    Sounds like something out of ST:TNG from the Q trial in the second episode. There is a drug available that helps mitigate the stress from a traumatic episode that was being tested a few years ago. I'm wondering if it's the same drug.

    Either way, I think the way the gov't is treating our wounded vets is horrible. I really hope that the new test helps out better than what they're doing now.

    • MDMA, better known as "Ecstasy", is being researched [maps.org] for use in treating PTSD.

      But since the patent on MDMA has expired, and it needs only to be used a limited number of times instead of on an ongoing basis, it is not going to profitable for any pharmaceutical company.

      So the group trying to get MDMA through the 10 year, $10 million, program of clinical trials is a non-profit group which promotes better access to psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes.

      Marijuana has also been shown to be more success [salem-news.com]

      • "It would be interesting indeed if militaries around the world started giving their vets MDMA and marijuana once they have returned home from battle."

        I was thinking exactly the same thing.

        The problem is exactly as you stated. The FDA approval process will be the biggest hurdle as everyone from public policing entities to the Big Pharma will fight it tooth and nail as they cannot make any money from either drug. They tried with Marinol, but for some reason, it doesn't have the same effects as natural THC, an

        • "It also has anti-emetic properties, and also may reduce aggression in certain subjects."

          Well some might say that marijuana reduces aggression but plenty of soldiers use marijuana already. Here's one classic example:

          From the Associated Press, June 22, 1971:

          “A Congressional Medal of Honor winner says he was ’stoned’ on marijuana the night he fought off two waves of Vietcong soldiers and won America’s highest military honor .

          “It was April 1, 1970, when Mr. [Peter] Lemon, an Army Specialist 4, used his rifle, machine gun and hand grenades to smash a large attack

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Either way, I think the way the gov't is treating our wounded vets is horrible.

      Wounded or not, the government has always treated veterans like shit. I have friends who have to go to VA hospitals, and from what they say those hospitals are horrible.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetoencephalography [wikipedia.org]

    The key difference from other imaging technologies is that this is completely passive, it directly measures magnetic fields created by activity in your brain. To get accurate results with such tiny fields, it must be done in a magnetically shielded room with a large number of sensitive sensors.

    • Actually EEG is also completely passive, and you don't need to be in a magnetically shielded room.
  • Car accidents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Itninja (937614) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:31PM (#30863080) Homepage
    It's interesting to me that there are new developments in PTSD treatment within less than a decade of of the declaration of 'car accident' being the #1 cause of PTSD. I mean, sure soldiers get it in wartime and 'police action' time, but when the car insurance companies start to lose money...then it's ON...
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Or maybe there are a hell of a lot more drivers than soldiers and cops?

      In fact I bet most soldiers and cops are also automobile drivers.

    • by MmmmAqua (613624)
      This is a point which is often brought up when discussing PTSD. It's absolutely true that automobile accidents are the foremost cause of PTSD, but (and IANAPsychiatrist, I'm just repeating information related to me by the ones I've seen) most cases of PTSD from accidents are acute, not chronic. Long-term PTSD seems to be dominated by combat veterans, police officers, coasties, and the like.

      Again - just what I've been told. If anyone knows of any studies confirming or disproving this, I would love to read
      • My understanding, from what I've been told about the history of science/medicine aspect, is that the concept of "PTSD" emerged as a generalization of earlier observations of specifically combat-related trauma("soldier's heart", "shell shock", "battle fatigue") because of the work of psychologists looking at the symptoms of some victims of rape or sexual abuse and observing their similarity with the symptoms of some soldiers who had experienced combat stresses(mostly in Vietnam, just because of the time peri
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by PCM2 (4486)

        I can confirm the car-crash case, at least anecdotally. It happened to me.

        Head-on collision at 60mph, on a stretch of dark freeway. We ran into two cars that were parallel parked, jackknifed across the two lefthand lanes. (Never did find out why they chose that brilliant configuration.)

        After that, I could barely sit in a car. All I can say is, once you've slammed into something at speed on a road that you were conditioned to believe would never contain any stationary objects, your brain just snaps. You're i

        • Actually, what you did with friend is called exposure therapy [factsforhealth.org]

          Maybe that's part of why it usually goes away for car accident victims with PTSD (you/they pretty much still have to drive/ride in this day and age) and becomes chronic in war vets. (No more exposure after 1 or 2 tours)

          • by MmmmAqua (613624)
            The VA does use exposure therapy, but it's applied on a case-by-case basis. They had me do a trial of pretty simple exposure, watching news reports on Iraq, and we found out right away that it was not a good idea for me. At least, not yet.

            I do know some other vets, mostly from the Korea/Vietname era, who have had great success with it. Great success in this case being the ability to be in public for short periods, drive a car, begin relearning self-care, etc. Unfortunately, after a relatively short time,
  • PTSD? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Lewis Black made a very valid point in one of his routines about the disambiguation of this problem known as post traumatic stress disorder. Over time, it has gone from 'shell shock' to 'battle fatigue' to 'post traumatic stress disorder' and now to a simple acronym: PTSD. It's unfortunate, because the acronym carries none of the weight that the original name (shell shock) used to carry. I won't go so far as to say that we are moving to something like Newspeak and the "destruction of words" (Syme, charac

    • by MmmmAqua (613624)
      I think it was George Carlin, and I disagree with the idea. What has happened is that the condition has moved from gross recognition into a well-described psychiatric diagnosis. It's the same thing that's happened with pretty much every other disease ever recognized. We no longer call AIDS the "gay disease", so why should different rules apply here?
    • by MrCrassic (994046)

      Though that routine is pretty humorous (and was, as others mentioned, performed by George Carlin), I don't really agree with it. PTSD is a very broad and wide-ranging disorder; calling it "shell shock" is a disservice to those who inherited the condition through other equally-traumatic means (rape, death of a close friend, accident, etc).

    • While I'm sure that there is some pressure in the direction of euphemism(doing some googling for "AEI PTSD" brings up some very interesting stuff about their work on attempting to discredit the concept entirely) I think there are also other factors at work.

      For instance, "Shell shock" got its name because (in addition to it being a very snappy name) the condition was commonly associated with the harrowing days or weeks of heavy artillery bombardment that troops encountered during WWI. The name is dramatic
  • If the test labels you as having PTSD, what will become of you? For example, will you forfeit your second amendment rights?

  • AFAIK stress mitigating pharmaceuticals have been in use by both civilians and military for thousands of years... check out: this [wikipedia.org]
  • For such an interesting result, its a bit surprising that they went for "The Journal of Neural Engineering". Impact factor = 2.7. Only been around since 2004. I don't want to denigrate science that gets published in lower-impact journals (because lots of good stuff ends up there), but the impact here is not congruous with the potential scientific and social ramifications of the results. I think some of the issues raised above might have something to do with it.
  • I wonder if it can tell if you were in a bad marriage for 15 years with a banshee from the netherworld?!
  • by the Dragonweaver (460267) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:25PM (#30863676) Homepage

    This is a very helpful diagnostic tool as there is still a stigma associated with any sort of mental disorder, particularly in the military. Some subsets handle it better than others; while some groups are more in the mindset of "get it treated" the idea of "malingerers" still holds true in some places. Self-diagnosis lags when there's a stigma attached.

    I would also be interested to see this used to help diagnose sexual trauma. Among the female population of the military, rape is still the highest inducer of PTSD, and I'm sure that holds true for civilians as well.

    The biggest reason for PTSD is that we, as humans in general, are not wired to cope with extreme trauma. Nor are we particularly wired to cause death. We train our military to automate these actions but in some people the brain can't cope with what the body has done. Look up "Achilles in America" for more information on the subject— there have been many studies done in and out of the military, and there are quite a few higher-ups who want to see the best treatments possible— and some who are looking into ways to mitigate the effects before they occur.

    • by GenP (686381)
      My Google-fu must be weak today. I can't seem to find anything relevant for "Achilles in America". Any hints?
    • by MmmmAqua (613624)

      This is a very helpful diagnostic tool as there is still a stigma associated with any sort of mental disorder, particularly in the military. Some subsets handle it better than others; while some groups are more in the mindset of "get it treated" the idea of "malingerers" still holds true in some places. Self-diagnosis lags when there's a stigma attached.

      This is the truth. The Army provides "Combat Stress" teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, both on a regular rotation to the different patrol bases and FOBs, and after any direct-fire engagement or enemy action resulting in the loss of life. In my experience early in the Iraq war, these teams of councillors(sp?) were visited mostly by support - mechanics, S2 guys, etc. The guys who (arguably) needed it most, because of their repeated exposure to the worst of war, only rarely visited. We needed it most (subjective

    • by winwar (114053)

      "This is a very helpful diagnostic tool..."

      Not based on the numbers. It might become a useful tool. But at present it cannot reliably differentiate between people with diagnosed PTSD and those without. Just imagine the results if you didn't already know the answer.

  • What about scanning vets without ptsd, or civilians like cops with it? Even better, scan a lot of soldiers before they leave, and scan for differences when they come back. Note ptsd sufferers.
    As their experiment stands currently, they might have only discovered a difference between a military-trained brain and a civilian one.
  • by yttrstein (891553) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:28PM (#30863714) Homepage
    To launch headlong into the most expensive, unworkable, unreasonable, ill-thought, entirely not-researched solutions. I'm not talking so much about the brain scan here; Harvard came up with the idea that PTSD could be detected in the brain, along with bi polar disorder and a few other conditions which might have detectable pathologies, and it's a very good idea.

    What's a very bad idea is the notion that PTSD can be stopped, or at least mitigated with chemical or mechanical tools. Once you already have PTSD, or indeed any disorder on the dissociative scale (Howell, Chu), then there is some good evidence that pharmaceuticals can help mitigate some, but not all of the symptoms. Currently those pharmaceuticals fall into two major classes: sedative-hypnotics and atypical antipsychotics. Sedative-hypnotics, particularly benzodiazepines, cause massive problems with the creation of short term memories. Atypical antipsychotics have a host of horrible side effects, from flattened affect to tardive dyskenisia-- which is the permanent, uncontrolled flexing of small muscles, like facial tics, thumb-wiggles and circles, and shuffling gait. In short, they should not be used for any condition which is not treatable by any other means.

    Also, there is no evidence (as has been noted by Harvard, at least) that there is any sort of genetic pre-disposition to the development of PTSD, or any other environmentally caused dissociative disorder. That is a dead end.

    Furthermore, there is also absolutely no evidence that the pre-dosing of atypical antipsychotics or sedatives have any effect whatsoever on the development of PTSD, and in fact in both cases may very probably result in soldiers with far less willingness to shoot the enemy in the face than the military requires.

    The fact is that the Pentagon is and has always created an enormous mess out of the minds that manage to survive their plans, and there's simply no way around it. It would be really great, I think, to come up with some way to make war more palatable for the people who have to be in it, but somehow the very root of the notion seems disingenuous.

    War is fucking hell.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      What's a very bad idea is the notion that PTSD can be stopped, or at least mitigated with chemical or mechanical tools. Once you already have PTSD, or indeed any disorder on the dissociative scale (Howell, Chu), then there is some good evidence that pharmaceuticals can help mitigate some, but not all of the symptoms. Currently those pharmaceuticals fall into two major classes: sedative-hypnotics and atypical antipsychotics. Sedative-hypnotics, particularly benzodiazepines, cause massive problems with the cr

    • by jvkjvk (102057)

      Well, then!

      Perhaps the US Military can fund a study into other treatments for PTSD?

      I know a group called MAPS [maps.org] that is looking for some funding [maps.org]for clinical PTSD trials [maps.org] on US War Veterans...

      Perhaps some /.'ers might want to help, too!

      Regards.

  • If you suspect PTSD, you can just MRI their head. No need to look at the images; if they go apeshit as soon as the thing starts up, they've got PTSD. (if they go apeshit before it starts up, they're claustrophobic and you'll have to try something else).

  • Corrections (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:49PM (#30866150) Journal

    MEG is not new, it's over 40 years old.

    Conceptually it's even older. It is the magnetic signals associated with the well known EEG 'brain waves', first recorded in 1928.

    It is exactly and only the perpendicular to the EEG signals, and as such are analyzed in much the same way, and represent the same neural processes.

    What good it is, is it can detect and localize 'dipole' generators in the folds of the cortex. Since the negative and positive ends of those are the same distance from the scalp, they balance out on EEG and can't be seen. The magnetic field to such a dipole is most prominent in this configuration.

    The drawback is that detecting the ~10 femtotesla signals require massive shielding to prevent pretty much any near by electrical activity to interfere. With signals that weak, it's a good thing the magnetic field isn't reduced by the skull and scalp like EEG (by 3 orders of magntitude).

    The detectors are superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDS). They require massive technical infrastructure and maintenance, ie. great expense.

    Except for the localization noted, if MEG can do it, EEG can do it easier, cheaper (three orders of magnitude), faster (in terms of turnover), and operated by personnel with less training. There are portable EEGs capable of being operated in the field, but even a full size unit is about the size of a desktop computer and can be run off a laptop.

    I'd be very interested to hear what TFA has to say about why MEG is necessary. Their 248 SQUID machine is high density, but so are the 256 electrode EEG that have been on the market for years. I'd also like to know exactly what the signals of interest are, so I can figure out how to pull it out of EEG with far less sophisticated equipment, such as exists in pretty much every VA neurology department.

  • So I could prove the method I developed, to heal any mental disorder?
    And prove that it’s way more efficient than anything classic psychology does?

    Now if only I had access to such a device, and someone who knows how to use it...

  • This line stood out: "They've even launched a program to create stress-mitigating pharmaceuticals." Reminded me of the JoCo song "I Feel Fantastic" [youtube.com], written as an accompaniment to Popular Science's article Will Drugs Make Us Smarter and Happier? [popsci.com].

Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature. -- Rich Kulawiec

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