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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Brain Helps Keep Emotions at Bay
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Brain Helps Keep Emotions at Bay
(HealthDay News)
by -- Krisha McCoy
Updated: Sep 20th 2006

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A new study may reveal how people function amidst distracting emotions.

Published in the Sept. 21 issue of Neuron, the findings suggest the human brain is able to prevent emotions from interfering with mental functioning.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center in New York City asked volunteer participants to indicate by pressing a button whether a face image was happy or fearful, while ignoring "fear" and "happy" labels written across each face.

The labels were either "congruent" (e.g., happy face, "happy" label) or "incongruent" (e.g., happy face, "fear" label). The incongruent labels were designed to represent a conflict between emotional and cognitive stimuli.

During the tests, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine what parts of the brain were active.

They found that when the participants were exposed to the incongruent labels, activity of the amygdala -- the brain's center for processing emotional events -- was inhibited by the anterior cingulated cortex -- the brain's center for neural processing.

The researchers speculated that their findings may help explain why people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression may be unable to control emotional intrusion into their thoughts. They pointed out that the brains of people with PTSD and depression may be less able to inhibit the amygdala during emotional processing.

More information

The National Institute of Mental Health has more about PTSD.