Research links locus coeruleus activity with hyperarousal in PTSD

Regions of the brain associated with stress and posttraumatic stress disorder. Credit: National Institutes of Health

A new study in Biological Psychiatry has linked signs of heightened arousal and reactivity—a core symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—to overactivity of the locus coeruleus (LC), a brain region that mediates arousal and reactivity. By combining bodily responses and brain imaging data, the new paper by Dr. Christoph Mueller-Pfeiffer at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and colleagues is the first to provide direct human evidence for a theory over 30 years old. Pinpointing the origin of symptoms in the brain is a major step in efforts to improve treatment options for patients with the disorder.

"The authors are to be congratulated on imaging this part of the brain," said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "Demonstrating the presence of LC hyperactivity in PTSD sets the stage for clarifying the relationship of LC activity to stress response, resilience, PTSD symptoms, and the treatment of PTSD," he added.

In the study, first author Christoph Naegeli, also of University of Zurich, and colleagues analyzed 54 participants who had been exposed to trauma, about half of whom developed PTSD. When the participants listened to random bursts of white noise, those who were diagnosed with PTSD had more frequent eye blinks, and increased heart rate, skin conductance and pupil area responses—indicators of the body's autonomic response—than participants without PTSD.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity, Naegeli and colleagues found that patients with PTSD had larger brain responses in the LC and other regions wired to the LC that control alertness and motor preparation. According to Mueller-Pfeiffer, the increased brain activity and autonomic responses measured in the participants provide a biologically plausible explanation for hypervigilance and exaggerated startle responses in PTSD. However, LC activation was not directly associated with arousal symptoms. Thus, direct links between LC hyperactivity and PTSD symptom severity still need to be demonstrated.

The study may also reveal new avenues for treating these common and disabling symptoms of PTSD. "Our results suggest that targeting system hyperactivity with new pharmacological or psychotherapeutic interventions are approaches worthy of further investigation," said Dr. Mueller-Pfeiffer.

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More information: Christoph Naegeli et al, Locus Coeruleus Activity Mediates Hyperresponsiveness in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Biological Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.08.021
Journal information: Biological Psychiatry

Provided by Elsevier
Citation: Research links locus coeruleus activity with hyperarousal in PTSD (2017, October 31) retrieved 19 August 2019 from
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User comments

Nov 02, 2017
@bubba the pseudoscience FRAUD
PTSD is a pheromonal illness
repeating pseudoscience lies don't make them true

this alone is evidence that you understand absolutely nothing about PTSD, let alone medicine in general

reported for fraud

Nov 04, 2017
@idiot illiterate bubba the pseudoscience FRAUD

repeating your lies don't make them more true

nor does repeating them on an unmoderated science news aggregate somehow give them legitimacy

science requires evidence: you have never once provided a single reputable piece of evidence showing there is anything scientific about your claims, let alone legitimate

this alone demonstrates you're a fraud and liar

moreover, it is not insulting to demonstrate your inability to provide factual evidence for your claims unless you're a member of a cult or religion

i will gladly stop pointing out that you're a liar and fraud when you stop posting fraudulent claims and lies that are easily proven to be such


Nov 05, 2017
@idiot illiterate bubba the pseudoscience FRAUD
Can we not limit comments to named authors of peer-reviewed medical journal articles?
that counts me in ya detestable, crazy, untrained, illiterate person attempting to access from a prison mental hospital

more to the point: one cannot cast aspersions on the greatest minds in medical history when said aspersions are backed by said greatest minds in medical history

the "greatest minds in medical history" all provided empirical evidence for their claims whereas you are simply regurgitating your religious fanatical beliefs

evidence or STFU, ya idiot pseudoscience troll

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