Local neuroscientists discover second-hand trauma causes physical change in brain

By Patricia Martellotti - Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS) - You've heard of second-hand smoke, now the health dangers of second-hand trauma are coming to light at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

"It's very exciting because everyone, I myself, know my behavior is driven by the brain, Sometimes I can't understand how to control it," said neuroscientist Dr. Alexei Morozov of VTCRI.

Morozov has discovered that if you see someone experience a traumatic event, say a car accident or a terrible illness, seeing that traumatic event could lead to PTSD, even if you didn't experience the trauma first hand.

"Even things people see on TV can trigger symptoms like PTSD, can cause real problems in people's lives," said Dr. Thomas Milam, a psychiatrist at Carilion Clinic.

Morozov explained, "There are changes in the brain which potentially can explain the development of PTSD."

In Morozov's study using mice, he has discovered that their brains are affected and physically altered just by observing neighbors under stress.

The researcher said by learning how the physical changes happen in the brain, doctors can develop a means to reverse those changes.

"The more we understand ourselves, the more a psychiatrist and clinicians can offer things to reduce the suffering of those who suffer from PTSD," says Dr. Thomas Milam of Carilion Clinic.

Although it is not clear exactly how the circuits in the brain have changed, this researcher has proven that witnessing fear can leave a trace in the brain.

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