Potential new tool for PTSD diagnosis

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has a possible new biomarker to help in diagnosis of the disorder, according to an article on the Sleep Research Society’s website, Sleep. One of the more common symptoms of PTSD, seen in around 70% of patients, is sleep abnormality. This suggests that the development and maintenance of PTSD may be sleep-related problems.

PTSD diagnosis - photo of a man looking to the horizon

PTSD can be difficult to diagnose. Many go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed

The study

University of Amsterdam Department of Psychology’s Marieke de Boer and colleagues studied electroencephalogram (EEG) power over a wide ranges of frequencies in sensor locations on the scalp during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) phases of sleep on subjects that had previous exposure to trauma. The subjects were predominantly men in their late 30’s to early 50’s.

The sleep assessment study combined a mixture of brain activity scanning, heart rate, breathing rate, and limb movement to help in PTSD diagnosis.

Possible PTSD diagnosis tool 1

Daytime sleeping is often something those with PTSD do. Could it just be the meds, or making-up for poor night sleep?

 

Findings

PTSD sufferers generally scored their sleep rating as very poor and the measurement correlated with high levels of nightmares and insomnia compared to the control group. The PTSD group also showed a greater tendency to wake from sleep.

Spectrum analysis of the waveforms from the PTSD group’s EEGs highlighted a noticeable difference in pattern from the control group. For example, during NREM sleep phases the slower frequencies of the control group were replaced with a noticeably higher frequency spectrum from parts of the brain connected with insomnia. Another area of the brain, related to nightmares, also showed a large power shift.

The study suggests that the observed sleep related power shifts could be hallmarks of PTSD, and might constitute a valid indicator, or biomarker in PTSD diagnosis.

Possible PTSD diagnosis tool 2

PTSD is a relatively young disorder, in terms of understanding. It can be lonely and dark for the sufferer

Conclusion

Whilst there is still a lot of work to do on the subject, and the study’s sample size was relatively small, it is a positive step in finding an effective biomarker to assist in the diagnosis of PTSD in sufferers.

Sources:

University of Amsterdam study

Sleep Research Society

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