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RSNA: Brain Abnormalities Seen in Psychiatric Disorders

Study suggests patients have a dysfunctional cognitive memory suppression mechanism

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with stress-related psychiatric disorders may have dysfunctional circuitry in the area of the brain responsible for suppressing memory, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America held Nov. 30 to Dec. 5 in Chicago.

Nivedita Agarwal, M.D., of the University of Udine in Italy, and colleagues used functional MRI to study brain function in 11 patients with major depression, 13 with generalized anxiety disorder, nine with panic attack disorders, five with borderline personality disorder, and 21 healthy controls who performed word-recall and word-suppression memory tasks.

Compared to controls, the researchers report that the patients showed significantly reduced activation in the prefrontal cortex. During the word-suppression task, the investigators found that the patients showed increased activation in the hippocampus, suggesting that insufficient activation of the prefrontal cortex could result in the inadequate suppression of unwanted traumatic memories stored in the hippocampus.

"For patients with major depression and other stress-related disorders, traumatic memories are a source of anxiety," Agarwal said in a statement. "Because traumatic memories are not adequately suppressed by the brain, they continue to interfere with the patient's life."

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