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How PTSD Affects the Brain (Nursing)

by Brenda Marshall, EdD, MSN, RN

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    00:01 So PTSD, it's a brain response to having witnessed something that threaten either the person's life or lives of people that the person might know.

    00:19 There are different parts of our brain that are affected by PTSD.

    00:26 For example, we have the amygdala.

    00:29 The amygdala activates our threat response of fight, flight, freeze, or submit.

    00:38 And during PTSD, that part of the amygdala that part of our brain it becomes overactive and floods us with I better go to safety. This is not safe.

    00:56 We also have the hippocampus.

    00:58 Now, the hippocampus is where we store memories.

    01:02 And so the hippocampus is important in PTSD, in that those memories suddenly come up, as though they are present day experiences.

    01:15 Also, we have the Medial prefrontal cortex.

    01:18 This is where we have our executive functioning.

    01:23 And when the amygdala sparks, our medial prefrontal cortex decreases.

    01:30 It's important for us to understand how the body remembers and codes trauma.

    01:39 If we think back to, why we have an amygdala? Way before we lived in homes, and had fire engines, and police departments, and governments, our brains needed to be able to get us into a very rapid fight or flight, because there might be a saber-toothed tiger that's about to pounce on us.

    02:03 So, our body needed to remember this terrible location where the tiger was because it saved our life.

    02:14 And so it's codified in our memory.

    02:17 Don't go there, you will die.

    02:22 Now, in this day and age in the 21st century, that amygdala is still firing away.

    02:31 Only, we don't have that saber-toothed tiger anymore.

    02:38 When we have a trauma, we remember it less in words, and more with our feelings and our bodies.

    02:46 Because that moment of trauma that we experience got codified.

    02:52 Automatically, without us doing anything at all.

    02:58 Our frontal lobes, wanted to make sure that we know what we have to do in order to continue to live.

    03:09 And yet it becomes overwhelmed by feelings.

    03:13 The amygdala totally overwhelms our ability to access our executive functions.

    03:25 When our amygdala takes over, our memory actually start shutting down to prepare us to save ourselves.

    03:38 So this limbic system, which I mentioned before, is our system that's going to respond to those memories, increasing activities, especially in the amygdala, and in the brain's emotional memory centers.

    03:54 That amygdala is going to sound the alarm, reminding us, "Oh, yes, you're in danger. You're in danger, right now." That brainstem instinctively response to the alarm, and our heart rate goes up.

    04:10 We hold our breath, or we hyperventilate.

    04:14 All of our muscles start to tense and prepare us to run, to fight, to flight.

    04:21 Or they shut down, first freeze and submit.

    04:28 Our emotional memory center all of a sudden is activated.

    04:34 And everything that we experienced in that moment of trauma suddenly comes over us again.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture How PTSD Affects the Brain (Nursing) by Brenda Marshall, EdD, MSN, RN is from the course Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders: GAD, Phobias, OCD, PTSD (Nursing).


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Amygdala
    2. Hippocampus
    3. Medial prefrontal cortex
    4. Medulla oblongata
    1. Executive function decreases
    2. Memory increases
    3. Limbic system shuts down
    4. Emotional memory center is deactivated

    Author of lecture How PTSD Affects the Brain (Nursing)

     Brenda Marshall, EdD, MSN, RN

    Brenda Marshall, EdD, MSN, RN


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