Synthetic memory plays key role in transmitting traumatic brain injury

Neuroscientists at the University of Birmingham have made a discovery key to understanding the communication between neurons in the brain that prevents PTSD from developing into serious psychological distress.

The group from the Universitys Neuroscience Institute published new research pointing to the crucial role played by a sensory-processing region of the brain called the somatosensory cortex.

The small brain area in the middle of the brain is vital for individuals to manage both normal and pathological fear responses. When the process is impaired the threat of danger remains.

The central neurons of the somatosensory cortex receive inputs from a corpus callosum an area located approximately 2. 5 centimeters beyond the top of the head. This is the network that uses spatial and somatic cues in order to translate sensory information into brain-like thought.

When this important layer is damaged by exposure to traumatic brain injury neuroscientists believe the information transfer to the somatosensory cortex is lost creating a situation where patterns of sound only become a part of the stimuli that trigger the feeling of fear when the brainstem senses danger.

The impact on the somatosensory cortex can have devastating effects on PTSD patients. Our results have gone beyond much research to show that the impairment of this region means that fear responses are conditioned with a startling degree of accuracy. Trauma-induced changes to the somatosensory cortex are relevant to how people interact emotionally in positive and negative environments

Paul Anderson Professor of Neurobiology and Psychology University of Birmingham.

Dr Anderson who is also Director of the Universitys Neuroscience Institute and senior author of a paper published in Evolution Cognition Behavior suggesting that the sensory effects of traumatic brain injury are as important for PTSD as the levels of caring and the general feeling of helplessness that typically accompany injury.

He said:

A piece of machinery that enables our brains to process our emotions is damaged in neurodegenerative disorders. The role of sensory information processing in the brain is complex and extends beyond the brains specialized cognitive area with the potential for sensory changes to affect how we experience the world especially in our everyday lives.

Understanding which sensory factors are enhanced by injury becomes important and it will become even more crucial as we design treatments that act on the underlying mechanisms or sense that are senses necessary for reduction in this behavioural motivation for a safe and fulfilling world. My lab was the first to show how a provoking experience like watching a fear film or even being directly involved in this kind of negative situation can make us really want to experience it

APC Bio:

A major breakthrough has been made in the study of the brain processes that underlie the memory processes that transmit trauma to the somatosensory cortex (the area of the brain for touch appearance and emotion) focusing on the centrally located nerve fibers that are triggered first by injury and then by chronic psychiatric stress. This research has been funded by EUs Nondiscrimination for All project and the University is now one of the first institutions to integrate the projects potential outcomes into its research design and assessment of trauma medical units.