THE CENTER FOR NEUROBEHAVIORAL RESEARCH, AT BOYS TOWN NATIONAL RESEARCH HOSPITAL, FOCUSES ON IMPROVING METHODS FOR EARLY INTERVENTION IN THE LIVES OF CHILDREN WITH BEHAVIORAL AND MENTAL DISORDERS.
ONE DISORDER AFFECTING A LARGE NUMBER OF ADOLESCENTS IS POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.
PTSD CAN BE CHALLENGING TO TREAT, AS ITS BIOLOGY IS NOT FULLY UNDERSTOOD.
STUART WHITE IS HOPING TO CHANGE THAT.
"Anybody that has ever been hungry knows that that impacts your mood, right? I'm terrible to be around if I'm hungry. So we know your body plays a really big role in how you feel, how you act, how you react to situations. But those actual mechanisms that are linking your brain and your body, particularly how those mechanisms function in mental illness is not very well understood. It's not sufficiently understood certainly for us to have a grasp on all the different levers to be able to push on to help these kids."
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.
CURRENT TREATMENT STRATEGIES FOR PEDIATRIC PTSD DO NOT CONSIDER THE ROLE OF TESTOSTERONE.
"We know those things are interrelated. Testosterone has receptors in the brain. So when you have testosterone released in your body, that makes it into your brain and we know that changes what your brain does. But we don't really know how, that well, in particular in kids. The little work that has been done has been done almost exclusively in adults. We have a couple of new ways of getting a testosterone response and really looking at it in kids."
UTILIZING THE HOSPITAL'S FUNCTIONAL MRI, DR. WHITE WILL BE ANALYZING BOTH HEALTHY ADOLESCENT PATIENTS AND THOSE WITH PTSD.
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 THIS TASK FOLLOWING A TASK DESIGNED TO INCREASE LEVELS OF THE HORMONE TESTOSTERONE AND A TASK THAT DOES NOT INCREASE TESTOSTERONE.
"We're going to take those numbers into account when we're looking at the two different brain scans."
UNDERSTANDING THE BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES BEHIND PTSD WILL BE USEFUL FOR COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPIES AND DIFFERENT PHARMACOLOGICAL TREATMENTS.
"Doing this small study is going to give us the first glimpse to a lot of the answers to these questions and give us directions that we'll need to go in moving forward. Eventually the goal is to give another set of tools so that clinicians have a way of using what the body is telling us to really make informed clinical decisions about what we should or shouldn't be doing, what is and isn't working."