June 18, 2014
Science Daily/University of Texas at Arlington
The use of functional near infrared spectroscopy to map brain activity responses during cognitive activities allows researchers to "see" which brain region or regions fail to memorize or recall learned knowledge in student veterans with PTSD.
Bioengineering Professor Hanli Liu, left, and Alexa Smith-Osborne, associate professor of Social Work, discuss their work with student veterans who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The study by bioengineering professor Hanli Liu and Alexa Smith-Osborne, an associate professor of social work, and two other collaborators was published in the May 2014 edition of NeuroImage: Clinical. The team used functional near infrared spectroscopy to map brain activity responses during cognitive activities related to digit learning and memory retrial.
Numerous neuropsychological studies have linked learning dysfunctions -- such as memory loss, attention deficits and learning disabilities -- with PTSD.
The new study involved 16 combat veterans previously diagnosed with PTSD who were experiencing distress and functional impairment affecting cognitive and related academic performance. The veterans were directed to perform a series of number-ordering tasks on a computer while researchers monitored their brain activity through near infrared spectroscopy, a noninvasive neuroimaging technology.
The research found that participants with PTSD experienced significant difficulty recalling the given digits compared with a control group. This deficiency is closely associated with dysfunction of a portion in the right frontal cortex. The team also determined that near infrared spectroscopy was an effective tool for measuring cognitive dysfunction associated with PTSD.
With that information, Smith-Osborne said mental healthcare providers could customize a treatment plan best suited for that individual. "It's not a one-size-fits-all treatment plan but a concentrated effort to tailor the treatment based on where that person is on the learning scale," Smith-Osborne said.