Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that effects an estimated 21 million Americans, including many adolescents. Of those 21 million cases, it is estimated that 30% of patients do not respond to treatment. PTSD can be challenging to treat, as its biology is not fully understood.
Stuart White, Ph.D., Director of the Decision-Making Program, is hoping to change that.
Dr. White has received a four-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the interaction between the neural and hormonal mechanisms implicated in children with PTSD in order to improve treatment methods. Current treatment strategies for pediatric PTSD do not consider the role of testosterone.
Utilizing the hospital's functional MRI, Dr. White will be analyzing both healthy adolescent patients and those with PTSD from within the Boys Town Residential Program. Both groups of youth will complete tasks in the fMRI designed to assess brain responses to threats in the environment and observe neural processes associated with emotion regulation. Each child will complete a series of tasks, which will either raise or not raise their testosterone level.
"We know that PTSD involves changes in hormonal and neural responses, but we don't really understand how these systems work together," said White. "Better understanding the way different biological systems contribute to PTSD will give us more and better ways to help these youth."
Understanding the biological processes behind PTSD will be useful for cognitive behavioral therapies and different pharmacological treatments.
"There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle," said White. "This work will be an important step towards making sure that clinicians have all the tools to help youth with PTSD that we can give them."