There is now ample evidence from the preclinical and clinical fields that early life trauma has both dramatic and long-lasting effects on neurobiological systems and functions that are involved in different forms of psychopathology as well as on health in general. To date, a comprehensive review of the recent research on the effects of early and later life trauma is lacking. This book fills an obvious gap in academic and clinical literature by providing reviews which summarize and synthesize these findings. Topics considered and discussed include the possible biological and neuropsychological effects of trauma at different epochs and their effect on health. This book will be essential reading for psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, mental health professionals, social workers, pediatricians and specialists in child development.
Research on PTSD aims to find the biological, psychological, and environmental factors that appear to play a causal role in the development of the disorder and to understand the ways in which people with PTSD respond differently to events than do people without the disorder. We know that some people who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD while others are able to “put the event behind them.” Therefore, research often compares responses to stimuli that act as trauma reminders in people with and without PTSD. These responses may be brain changes, changes in other biological factors such as levels of particular chemicals in the body, or differences in the ability to perform tasks that require memory or concentration either during or after experiencing a reminder of a trauma.
Even though our knowledge of the causes and the physiological changes that contribute to PTSD is still incomplete, there are treatments available for the disorder and some research looks at the effects of different types of treatment in order to see how effective they are. Such research may compare different drugs, or psychological therapies, and it may also be combined with the research described above in order to help us to better understand how the treatments work. In summary, research on PTSD, like research on other medical conditions, spans a wide range of approaches and techniques. Together, these diverse areas of research will give us a better understanding of the “whole picture” of this disorder.
Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD, FRCPC