Recently, an HMS researcher had the unique opportunity to study patients’ brains before and after an unexpected traumatic event. Katie McLaughlin was in the midst of a functional MRI study observing amygdala activity in 60 teenagers in the Boston area when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. McLaughlin found herself in the unusual position of having fMRI images of brains before exposure to a real world trauma. In the preliminary phase of her study, McLaughlin used an fMRI to monitor amygdala activity upon exposure to a negative image, with participants demonstrating amygdala activity that ranged from active to muted.  McLaughlin found that those participants who showed elevated amygdala activity in the preliminary phase of the study were more likely to have mental healthy issues after exposure to trauma.


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photo: Charles Krupa AP Photo

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