PTSD linked with a smaller cerebellum: But which comes first?
The cerebellum is a small part of the brain responsible for coordinating movement and balance; it also influences memory and emotions, two things largely associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now, researchers have found something pretty interesting. People with PTSD have smaller cerebellums.
It’s even more striking because, the differences between a healthy person's cerebellum and one with PTSD are majorly within the posterior lobe, which focuses on cognitive functions, and the vermis, associated with emotional processing.
However, the researchers do not know which comes first: is it that a smaller cerebellum makes one susceptible to PTSD, or does PTSD cause the cerebellum to shrink?
No one can say for now. What we can say is, if this contributes to PTSD, it’s possible that treatments like brain stimulation targeting the cerebellum could help patients battling with this condition.
Such a treatment has never been done because the cerebellum is typically associated with movement rather than emotions as a balancing. But the research suggests that the cerebellum might be more powerful than we imagined.
"It's a really complex area," said Ashley Huggins, Ph.D., the lead author of the report. "If you look at how densely populated with neurons it is relative to the rest of the brain, it's not that surprising that it does a lot more than balance and movement."
Not everyone will suffer PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. Only about 6% of adults develop PTSD. It’s only fair to imagine that these ones possess or lack something that contributes to the onset of PTSD. Some other brain regions like the amygdala and hippocampus have been associated with PTSD. A smaller cerebellum could also be one contributing factor. And the factors we don’t yet know about may be why great PTSD treatments do not work for everyone.
The more understanding we have of the factors causing PTSD, the more targeted treatments we may be able to provide.
More on the research here.