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Clinical Science Brown Bag Series

Tuesday, January 22, 2019,

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  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 316

Jennifer Blackford, PhD

Director, Division of Psychology

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

“Fear and anxiety neurocircuitry in PTSD”

 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disabling and prevalent disorder that is rapidly becoming the most common mental health problem facing Veterans returning home from war.  Unfortunately, PTSD is often resistant to current therapeutic interventions and a full recovery is uncommon. The development of therapies targeted at the underlying pathophysiology is a promising avenue for the effective treatment of PTSD, but to develop these treatments, first we must better understand the underlying neurobiological mechanisms. To date, most research on the neurobiological mechanisms of PTSD has focused on an amygdala-mediated fear circuit. Compelling animal models show that a different neural circuit, mediated by the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), is critical for anxiety. The BNST also mediates hypervigilance and responses to stress, which may explain the critical features of PTSD. Thus, the BNST anxiety-mediated circuit may be a novel neural substrate of PTSD.  We have recently characterized the BNST neural circuitry in humans and have developed novel methods to examine BNST function. Our preliminary data demonstrates that the BNST is specifically engaged in situations where a threat is unpredictable. We have recently completed a study of amygdala and BNST circuits in PTSD, including measures of brain function, cortisol response, and arousal. This talk will include initial findings from that study.