Imaging study: Brain injured Veterans more likely to take risks

Get After It

Thoughts and observations from Perry Jefferies.

A new study out this week in the journal of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging reinforces what is becoming increasingly obvious to researchers – PTSD is an observable physical injury to the brain and some symptoms of PTSD can be directly related to the injury.  This is the kind of thing that advocates of Veteran Treatment Courts and families need to understand.  Researchers from Kentucky and Colorado a questionnaire or scale called the Iowa Gambling Task to measure Veteran’s decision making.  They combined this with neuroimaging – an MRI – to see what the brain looked like in people who scored worse.  As others have seen, the hippocampus was smaller and harder and there was less gray matter.   In scientific terms:

Results indicated that gray matter morphometry in the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) predicted performance on the mIGT among all three groups and were significantly reduced, as compared to the control group. (Fogleman et al., 2017)

For more on the physical changes to one’s brain, see Dr. Wlassoff’s article but also his hopeful conclusion:

But in the midst of such grim findings, scientists also sound a note of hope for PTSD patients and their loved ones. According to them, by delving into the pathophysiology of PTSD, they have also realized that the disorder is reversible. The human brain can be re-wired. In fact, drugs and behavioral therapies have been shown to increase the volume of the hippocampus in PTSD patients. (Wlassoff, 2015)

With continued studies like those above and the work being done in Waco with the Center for Excellence in Research on Returning War Veterans treatments are being developed.  It may be a pill or some transmission but eventually we will get to the quick and efficient diagnosis and treatment of this injury.  In the meantime, community supports, professional therapy, and folks like the Military Veteran Peer Network are some troop’s best lifeline to healing.


Fogleman, N. D., Naaz, F., Knight, L. K., Stoica, T., Patton, S. C., Olson-Madden, J. H., . . . Depue, B. E. (2017). Reduced lateral prefrontal cortical volume is associated with performance on the modified Iowa Gambling Task: A surface based morphometric analysis of previously deployed veterans. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 267, 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2017.06.014

Wlassoff, V., PhD. (2015, January 24). How does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder change the brain? Retrieved July 3, 2017, from