AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - According to the Veterans Administration, 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer with PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or depression.
Of those, only 50 percent seek help with half receiving "minimally adequate" treatment. Researchers at Auburn University are working with Fort Benning soldiers to improve treatment by testing it.
Dr. Jeff Katz is fascinated with the human brain, more specifically what we can learn by studying it to help people coping with mental diseases. As the director of AU'S Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences Program, Dr. Katz is working with 160 Fort Benning soldiers to better understand post-traumatic stress disorder and post concussion syndrome.
"They have all been deployed and all gone off to war and come back and either they suffered from PTSD, PCS or they do not," explained Dr. Katz.
The soldiers have undergone a serious of blood tests, to see if they are more inclined to develop the diseases. Nero-psyche tests, map attention and memory skills, then Auburn's MRI research center performs a serious of brain scans while soldiers are tested on their ability to regulate emotion.
"What we have found is with PTSD and PTS, they use the same brain structures as people that don't have it but it requires more blood flow to those areas to regulate their emotions," Dr. Katz said.
The goal is to obtain scientific proof treatment is working or not working by comparing pre treatment brain scans with post treatment scans. Dr. Katz says this information will help therapists and patients in a profound way, by helping patients and families feel more confident their efforts to get better are working and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Dr. Katz, says this is a very unique study because the sample size of soldiers working with them is enormous compared to other studies focused on the same goals. So, there is a lot of opportunity with this study to one day make a positive impact for not only veterans and soldiers, but for anyone suffering with these diseases.