Veterans Affairs

EEG neuromarker diagnosis of PTSD

Identification of neuromarkers in brain wave patterns further aids in tracking recovery, predicting response to treatments, and the potential for relapse

Medical & Biotechnology

Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs have invented a novel method for diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder.

A technician from the removes EEG leads from a patient after waking from a sleep test. (Air Force photo)

PTSD is a chronic and disabling anxiety disorder that results from exposure to a traumatic event. Symptoms include marked deficits in behavioral, social, and occupational functioning.

Diagnosis is currently established subjectively on the basis of a patient’s clinical history, mental status examination, duration of symptoms, and clinician-administered symptom checklists, or patient self-reports. However, a recent comprehensive assessment of the current military and veteran PTSD diagnosis and treatment methods by the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Science recommends that objective physiology-based markers of PTSD be used to enhance prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Given the above, VA researchers have developed PTSD neuromarkers based on quantitative electroencephalography (EEG) analysis and other brain activity measurements. The neuromarkers provide the basis for objective methods for determining the severity of PTSD, and are gathered through a process of obtaining a brain wave patterns during sleep.

Measured neuromarkers include excessive stage one sleep, pulse oximetry, respiration, REM abnormalities, and other sleep study parameters gathered from EEG, electro-oculography, and surface electromyography. A computation of coherence function between various EEG sites produces measurements of the strength of coupling and association between EEG pairs (coherence), as well as their phase relationship (time leads or lags). These computed figures serve as baseline or thresholds for the determination of PTSD.

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