Behavioral Neuroscientist Seeking Cure for PTSD

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2008) – Could Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) be a thing of the past? University of South Florida behavioral neuroscientist David Diamond, director of the Center for Preclinical and Clinical Research on Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, professor of psychology and molecular pharmacology and physiology, and career scientist at the Tampa Veterans Hospital, conducts research on the neurobiology of PTSD. His research is leading toward advances in treatments which may ultimately cure PTSD symptoms in people. He will discuss his findings at the 2008 Philip Hauge Abelson Advancing Science Seminar at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This year's seminar on "Science, Stress, and Human Health" will take place Oct. 24 at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“War has caused PTSD in soldiers throughout human history,” said Diamond, an expert on stress and memory. “Stress is a normal and adaptive response which is activated when the brain perceives that our lives are threatened.” Diamond emphasizes, however, that “when we send soldiers off to war, their experiences are so intense and horrific that the memories they form are pathologically strong and vivid. These memories take on a life of their own and may intrude into soldiers’ lives for years after they return home.”

Diamond’s talk, titled “From the African Savannas to the Bench and into the Clinic: A Translational Approach to the Study and Treatment of Emotional Trauma,” follows a theme developed by a fellow presenter, Robert Sapolsky, a professor at Stanford University. Sapolsky has lectured on stress as an evolutionarily adaptive response which has become maladaptive because of the abuse primates (monkeys, chimps and people) wreak upon each other. Diamond will point out connections between his work on rats and Sapolsky’s research on primates in his presentation. By understanding how the brain processes stress, Diamond is working toward developing drugs that may someday make PTSD a thing of the past. “We don’t have the drugs yet which can cure people of PTSD, but understanding how to reverse stress effects on rats may help us to design more effective treatments to stop PTSD from developing, as well as to help people to recover, from wartime and civilian trauma.”

The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

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