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M. Benjamin Larkin, John P. McGinnis, Rita I. Snyder, Eric A. Storch, Wayne K. Goodman, Ashwin Viswanathan and Sameer A. Sheth

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a widespread and often devastating psychiatric condition. Core symptoms include intrusive and distressing thoughts, heightened reactivity, mood changes, cognitive impairments, and consequent avoidance of trauma-related stimuli. Symptoms of PTSD are often refractory to standard treatments, and neuromodulatory techniques have therefore drawn significant interest among the most treatment-resistant patients. Transcranial magnetic stimulation has demonstrated minimal efficacy, and deep brain stimulation trials are currently ongoing. PTSD is a disorder of neural circuitry; the current understanding includes involvement of the amygdala (basolateral and central nuclei), the prefrontal cortex (ventral medial and dorsolateral regions), and the hippocampus. Neuroimaging and optogenetic studies have improved the understanding of large-scale neural networks and the effects of microcircuitry manipulation, respectively. This review discusses the current PTSD literature and ongoing neurostimulation trials, and it highlights the current understanding of neuronal circuit dysfunction in PTSD. The authors emphasize the anatomical correlations of PTSD’s hallmark symptoms, offer another potential deep brain stimulation target for PTSD, and note the need for continued research to identify useful biomarkers for the development of closed-loop therapies. Although there is hope that neuromodulation will become a viable treatment modality for PTSD, this concept remains theoretical, and further research should involve institutional review board–approved controlled prospective clinical studies.